The Ladbrokes Trophy may take the spotlight this particular weekend 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 renewal of 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.
This really could shape up to be another enthralling renewal and 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: 30th November 2019
- Winner: Cornerstone Lad
- SP: 16/1
- Trainer: Micky Hammond
- Jockey: Henry Brooke
2m is the trip for this Grade 1 Hurdle contest. Offering £110,000 in guaranteed prize money, the race regularly acts as a key early season Champion Hurdle trial so is definitely one to watch for Cheltenham fans (that is everybody, right?!). The ground at the track is currently described as heavy and is unlikely to improve all that much despite a reasonable forecast.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Heavy||2m||Grade 1||£110,000||5 Runners||1/4 1-2|
Fighting Fifth Hurdle Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from the last running of the race. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Nicky Henderson is the man out in front in the trainer’s table for Newcastle’s classiest jumps contest, with the multiple champion trainer having racked up five previous wins in the race. Responsible for the red-hot odds-on favourite in 2019, it would be something of a surprise were Henderson not to make it six this year. We certainly won’t be backing against him.
Barry Geraghty has been Nicky Henderson’s partner in crime on the big stage on many an occasion over the years, and the retained rider of JP McManus moved out on his own in the jockey table for this race with his victory aboard the aforementioned jolly, Buveur D‘Air, in 2018. Geraghty gets the leg up on the defending champ once again this time around.
These top level hurdle events over the minimum trip are regularly thought of as being something of a young horse’s game, and whilst that doesn’t always prove to be the case, it does seem that youth has been favoured here, with nine of the past 10 winners being seven years old or younger.
Regularly a small field affair, with a pretty short priced favourite, this race hasn’t been particularly kind to favourite backers over the past 10 years. Three winning market leaders over this period isn’t too bad, but due to the prohibitive odds returned, a level stakes loss of 5.60 points would have been recorded. Might such a stat make punters look for an each way bet this year?
BUVEUR D’AIR – 2/5
The obvious place to start here is with the dual Champion Hurdle king, Buveur D’Air. A fall put paid to his hat-trick bid in the Cheltenham showpiece this year, but barring accidents, he must surely go close to joining Comedy Of Errors and Birds Nest as a three time winner of this race. A lofty rating of 167 undoubtedly makes the Henderson runner the one to beat on the book, putting him fully 13lbs clear of his nearest rival.
3½l too good for dual winner of the race, Irthing, in 2017, he then turned what was supposed to be a match race with the alleged superstar, Samcro, into a procession 12 months ago. Blowing the Gordon Elliott star and everything else away that day, he sauntered up on the bit before bolting eight lengths clear in the straight.
Anything even close to that level of form will make him incredibly tough to beat. A perfect two from two on heavy ground, the only slight negative factor is that - as an eight year old - he would be older than a typical recent winner of the race. But then he isn’t a typical horse and we don’t feel age should be an issue.
SILVER STREAK – 7/2
Chief amongst the opposition is this admirable six year old grey from the yard of Evan Williams. A winner of the 2018 Welsh Champion Hurdle on his first start last season, he then went on to enjoy a most productive campaign, including runners up finishes in both the Greatwood and International Hurdles, and what looked to be a career best effort when filling third spot in the Champion Hurdle itself at the Cheltenham Festival.
Impressive as he was last season, he does still need to improve markedly to register a first career Grade 1 success. That said, he is still only six years old, so further progress is by no means impossible, and his trainer certainly seems to be of the impression that he has taken a step forward over the summer.
Having won by a yawning eight lengths on his seasonal return in a Listed event at Kempton, it’s hard to argue with that opinion at present, and he rates an intriguing runner. Zero from six on a soft surface though, the big question mark against this one is the ground. Despite a couple of dry, sunny days forecast, it’s hard to see the going any better than soft so that has to be a major concern.
LADY BUTTONS – 8/1
As the only mare in the line-up, this talented nine year old from the Philip Kirby yard does have the benefit of a 7lbs weight allowance from the males, but sitting on a hurdles mark of 146, that does still leave her with ground to make up with Silver Streak, and in particular, Buveur D’Air. Rated 149 over fences though, there is a fair each way case to be made for her at the prices.
Six times a winner on soft ground and, in common with the favourite, a perfect two from two on heavy, she is also two from three at this track. On balance, she would be slightly below this level, but does at least handle conditions and warmed up for this with an easy win in a Listed event for mares at Wetherby.
CORNERSTONE LAD – 33/1
It’s been a while since we have witnessed a real shock in this race – not since the 25/1 triumph of Go Native back in 2009 – but we do have a couple attempting to record a real boil-over this year, including this five year old son of Delegator.
A winner of his only start over the course and distance when fairly impressive in a handicap off a mark of 139 back April, he also scores top marks for consistency having finished in the first three in all 12 of his starts over hurdles. Untested at higher than Class 2 level though, a huge leap forward is required.
NELSON RIVER – 33/1
Rounding out the field is Tony Carroll’s dual-purpose performer, Nelson River. A mark of 142 leaves him with a lot on his plate here but, still only four years of age, he would at least be open to the most improvement.
Well beaten on heavy ground at handicap level in his most recent start, that potential for improvement is just about the only thing in his favour, although he did run a fair race when fourth in the Triumph Hurdle in what was his only previous tilt at a Grade 1.
Fighting Fifth Hurdle Winners
|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|
|2010*||Peddlers Cross||9/4||Donald McCain||Jason Maguire|
*The 2010 race was run at Newbury due to Newcastle abandonment.
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: 2008 – 2018
|Year||Fighting Fifth Winner||Christmas Hurdle Finish||Champion Hurdle Finish|
|2016||Irving||Didn’t Run||Didn’t Run|
|2015||Identity Thief||Didn’t Run||Sixth|
|2014||Irving||Pulled Up||Didn’t Run|
|2013||My Tent Or Yours||First||Second|
|2010||Peddlers Cross||Didn’t Run||Second|
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.