The Ladbrokes Trophy may take the spotlight in late November when it comes to the chasers, but there’s no doubt about where the pick of the hurdling action comes from, as Newcastle hosts the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
We’ve seen multiple Cheltenham Festival winners locking horns in this over the years as they take on this first leg of the Triple Crown of Hurdling. To complete this feat winners must also be triumphant in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and the Champion hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. The last horse to do so was Nicky Henderson’s Buveur D’Air in 2017/18.
This is often truly a race to savour as the next generation’s talents take on the established order.
Next Race: TBD
The next renewal of this race has not been scheduled yet. We will update this once the schedule has been released for next season. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 28th November 2020
- Winner: Epatante
- SP: 8/11
- Trainer: Nicky Henderson
- Jockey: Aidan Coleman
This Grade 1 hurdle contest is one of the National Hunt highlights of the year at Newcastle and offers £80,000 in total prize money. It is run over a distance of two miles and the ground at the track is currently described as good with no adverse weather conditions likely to materialise before it runs judging by the forecast.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Good||2m||Grade 1||£80,000||7 Runners||1/4 1-2|
Fighting Fifth Hurdle Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
With five wins in total, and three in the space of the past seven years, it is Lambourn-based handler Nicky Henderson who tops the all-time trainers’ table in this race. Henderson will likely have high hopes of adding to that tally this year as it is his sole entry, Epatante, who is currently out in front at the head of the market.
Recent evidence suggests that those runners aged between five and seven years of age hold the edge here, with eight of the past 10 winners falling into that age bracket; the only outliers are Irving, who scored as an eight year old in 2016, and Countrywide Flame, who came out on top at the youthful age of four in 2012.
We haven’t had too many outright shocks in this race, with last year’s champ, Cornerstone Lad, being the only winner to have returned a double figure SP in the past decade. Nevertheless, this still hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for favourite backers, with supporters of the market leader being rewarded with a £1 level stakes loss of £4.61 over this 10-year period.
|Epatante||Evens||162||Nicky Henderson||Aidan Coleman|
|Sceau Royal||4/1||158||Alan King||Daryl Jacob|
Epatante – Evens
Twice successful with Buveur D’air and once each with Straw Bear and My Tent Or Yours, JP McManus leads the way amongst the owners in this race. According to the market, McManus may well be adding further to that tally this year, as it is the current hot favourite Epatante who will be carrying those famous green and gold silks this time around.
Of course this runner has far more going for her that the excellent record in the race of her trainer and owner. She does also arrive here as Britain’s reigning champion hurdler having scorched to a three-length victory at the Cheltenham Festival back in March. That performance clearly makes her the one to beat here, and indeed in almost any two mile hurdle contest where she shows up. Looking for negatives is pretty difficult. She will be having her first outing for 263 days, but has scored first time up on the back of breaks of 353 and 261 days in the past. It is also possible that last season’s Champion Hurdle wasn’t the strongest of renewal’s.
However, having also routed the field by five lengths in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, she is fully proven at this level, and this race wouldn’t appear to be stronger on paper than either of her two previous top-fight successes. Five from six over hurdles overall, three pounds clear of the field on official ratings, and in receipt of the seven pound fillies and mares allowance, she ought to take a lot of beating if granted a clear round.
Sceau Royal – 4/1
For all that he was only beating a lame Buveur D’Air in the race 12 months ago, defending champ Cornerstone Lad may still have been a little disrespected in the market at around the 22/1 mark, but on balance, the most likely threat to the jolly is the Alan King-trained eight year old, Sceau Royal.
As mentioned, that age stat may be against him but other than that this Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned runner has plenty to suggest he may be up to running a very big race. A high class chaser, with career highlights including a Grade 1 win in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown and twice finishing second to the brilliant Altior, he seemed to fall out of love with the larger obstacles a little last season. The decision was therefore taken to allow him to try his hand over hurdles once more, and so far that decision has paid off. A two and three quarter length verdict over Ballyandy in the Welsh Champion Hurdle on his comeback at Ffos Las in October has been franked, with the runner up that day having since gone on to fill the same spot under a big weight in the Greatwood Hurdle.
Sceau Royal’s next assignment meanwhile took him to Wincanton for the Elite Hurdle, where he could scarcely have been more impressive in cantering all over the field before pulling clear to score by seven and a half lengths. If judged on his two efforts this season, undergoing wind surgery over the summer seems to have done this one the world of good and, only once outside of the first two in his 11 outings on good ground, conditions would also look to be in his favour.
Fighting Fifth Hurdle Winners
|2020||Epatante||8/11||Nicky Henderson||Aidan Coleman|
|2019||Cornerstone Lad||16/1||Micky Hammond||Henry Brooke|
|2018||Buveur d’Air||11/8||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
|2017||Buveur d’Air||1/6||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
|2016||Irving||6/1||Paul Nicholls||Harry Cobden|
|2015||Identity Thief||6/1||Henry De Bromhead||Bryan Cooper|
|2014||Irving||6/4||Paul Nicholls||Nick Schofield|
|2013||My Tent Or Yours||8/11||Nicky Henderson||Tony McCoy|
|2012||Countrywide Flame||11/4||John Quinn||Denis O'Regan|
|2011||Overturn||7/4||Donald McCain||Jason Maguire|
About the Fighting Fifth Hurdle
Standing alongside the Christmas and Champion Hurdle as part of hurdling’s Triple Crown is the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. It’s the first of the trio to feature on the National Hunt calendar, scheduled to run in late November or early December each year. There are a total of nine hurdles for the horses to handle and the race is open to horse aged four and up, with a seven pound allowance for fillies and mares.
The race gets its name from the nickname of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, otherwise known as the 5th Regiment of the Foot. The infantry regiment has since merged with three others to form the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers but this race helps ensure its northern roots won’t be forgotten.
Established in 1969, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle has long been one of Newcastle’s most celebrated races of the year. Today it stands as the only top class contest to feature on the Tyneside course. Controversially, the racecourse installed an all-weather track in 2016 but this has had no impact on this two mile (actually just over at 2m98y) contest as Newcastle’s left-handed jumping turf track remained untouched.
BUVEUR D’AIR CROWNED THE NEW HURDLING KING
The Triple Crown of Hurdling is not any easy thing to win even for the most talented of two-mile specialists. Kribensis secured the crown in 1989-90 but almost three decades passed before the next horse pulled it off.
The long wait finally came to an end in the 2017-18 season though as Nicky Henderson’s supreme Buveur d’Air completed the sweep. There were many who fancied him to do it again the following year after a Fighting Fifth win but things did not go according to plan in the following two legs.
HURDLING TRIPLE CROWN ATTEMPTS: 2001/02 – 2020/21
|Season||Fighting Fifth Winner||Christmas Hurdle Finish||Champion Hurdle Finish|
|2020/21||Epatante||Runs 26th December 2020||Runs 16th March 2020|
|2019/20||Cornerstone Lad||Didn’t Run||Pulled Up|
|2016/17||Irving||Didn’t Run||Didn’t Run|
|2015/16||Identity Thief||Didn’t Run||6th|
|2014/15||Irving||Pulled Up||Didn’t Run|
|2013/14||My Tent Or Yours||1st||2nd|
|2010/11||Peddlers Cross||Didn’t Run||2nd|
|2006/07||Straw Bear||4th||Pulled Up|
|2003/04||The French Furze||Didn’t Run||Didn’t Run|
Since 2001, five Fighting Fifth champions, excluding Buveur d’Air, have won the second leg of the crown, the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park, but just one has then gone on to win the Champion Hurdle. It makes sense that the test at Cheltenham is the most tricky to land given its heightened prestige but recent efforts suggest more triple winners are likely.
Since 2010, four Fighting Fifth winners have placed in the Champion clash while My Tent Or Yours lost out by just a neck’s length to Jezki. Moreover, over the past decade there have been four seasons where a horse has won two or more of the three races.
BIRDS NEST DENIED QUADRUPLE
Having already matched Comedy of Errors’ record of three wins in this race, Birds Nest, described as the best horse never to win the Champion Hurdle, sought to go one better. He managed to get himself first past the line in 1980 too following a superb finish but the stewards soon snatched victory out of his hands.
It was a controversial decision to say the least and it’s not overly clear what the infringement was from the footage but whatever was spotted proved enough to see the chestnut horse relegated to second place. Denied what would still be an unrivalled fourth win, Birds Nest instead has long shared the title of being the leading horse for this race.
WATCH OUT FOR THE WEATHER
With the worst of the British weather often falling around January and February, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle isn’t a race at huge risk of cancellation or postponement. That said, this is the North East! There have been three times in the past where wintery conditions have seen Newcastle unable to host the Group 1 event.
The first came in 1993 and organisers, seemingly lacking a contingency plan, were unable to source an alternative home at short notice. This remains the only missing Fighting Fifth renewal though as in 2008 and 2010, the race moved to Wetherby and Newbury respectively following ice and snow on Tyneside.