Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle

The Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle is a Grade 3 contest, run over 2 miles 1 furlong on the New Course at Cheltenham, where it is currently scheduled as the second race on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival in March. Historically, the County Hurdle was the last race at the Festival and, granted its highly competitive nature, was a popular “getting out stakes”. The race was moved to its new position in the Festival program in 2009 and, in 2015, the safety limit was reduced to 26 from 28 runners, but it is still arguably the most competitive contest of the week.

The County Hurdle was run for the first time in 1920 but, since 1995, has borne the name of the late Michael Vincent O’Brien, a legendary Irish trainer whose 23 successes at the Cheltenham Festival included four Cheltenham Gold Cups and three Champion Hurdles. Perhaps understandably, since World War II no horse has won the County Hurdle more than once, but Paul Nicholls is the leading trainer with four wins – Sporazene (2004), Desert Quest (2006), American Trilogy (2009) and Lac Fontana (2014) – while Ruby Walsh, who rode the first three Nicholls’ winners, plus Final Approach (2014) is the leading jockey, also with four wins.

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