Horses To Follow » County Zen

County Zen

County Zen’s effort in finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Totescoop6 Heroes Handicap Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday was even more noteworthy given that he came from the back in a race that was dominated by those who raced handily (the first, second and third, Kilcrea Kim, Alfie Spinner and Dantari, occupied the first three places for more or less the entire race in a race in which a ragged start was a significant feature). He was niggled along from some way out, but he made progress turning out of the back straight and plugged on well up the home straight to take fourth, nearly getting up for third. The ground would have been quick enough for him here as all his winning has come with cut in the ground, including on soft and heavy.

He ran well on his previous run at Warwick back over hurdles having been sent chasing briefly. He didn’t stay the three miles on very testing ground at Warwick and he should be even better now dropped again to two and a half miles, especially on his favoured soft surface.

He is still lightly raced for an eight-year-old having been off the track for 17 months prior to returning last March, and it is not implausible that his trainer Philip Hobbs can elicit some more progress from him back over the smaller obstacles. He was a good novice hurdler three seasons back, finishing third in the Totesport Trophy off a mark of 130, but he then went off the boil slightly as he continued to be highly tried in competitive handicaps. He seems to have returned to hurdling recently sweeter after not appearing to take particularly well to chasing in the early part of the season and this was another very creditable run; he appeared to be Philip Hobbs’s second string after the winner Kilcrea Kim after all.

5th February 2011