Fighting Fifth Hurdle Date is Saturday, 28 November 2020

Racecourse: Newcastle

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Type: Grade 1 National Hunt Hurdle Race

Age Of The Horses: Four Years Old And Up

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Distance: 2 Miles & 46 Yards

2020 Winner: Epatante

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Fighting Fifth Hurdle Race Result 2020

What Happened in 2020?

Epatante brought a big reputation into the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. She defied weakness in the market on the morning of the race and this being a banana skin for favourites in recent years, as late betting support saw the Champion Hurdle heroine sent off odds-on for a third a Grade 1 win of her career. There would be drama in Newcastle, but thankfully for backers of the jolly she wasn’t involved. Epatante secured a record sixth Fighting Fifth Hurdle win for trainer Nicky Henderson and fifth success for owner JP McManus. She ran out an effortless 4¼ lengths winner over race-fit rival Sceau Royal on her first start since tasting Cheltenham Festival glory.

Before all that unfolded, however, the unfancied 22/1 chance Not So Sleepy from the Hughie Morrison stable virtually refused at the first hurdle and unseated jockey Paddy Brennan. Running loose, this horse caused havoc when carrying out Evan Williams’s 5/1 fancy Silver Streak at the second flight. That left a diminished field of four left in the race. Previous Fighting Fifth Hurdle hero Cornerstone Lad, who had won the race 12 months earlier, was withdrawn by trainer Micky Hammond on the morning of the race on account of unsuitably good ground. Not So Sleepy wasn’t finished with his involved, however, as he lurched across the track throughout the race, hampering Alan King’s 3/1 second-favourite Sceau Royal on the run to the third last.

The front two pulled some seven lengths clear of the third home, Nicky Richards’s Ribble Valley who was a weak 16/1 shot in the market. That horse and fellow northern raider Voix Du Reve, a recent recruit to Scottish trainer Iain Jardine’s yard and totally unfancied at 200/1, had their own private battle for the minor honours and third place prize money. They were no match for Epatante, however, who has been cut by bookmakers for a successful defence of her Champion Hurdle crown come the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.

What to Do Next?

Fighting Fifth Hurdle Info

The Fighting Fifth Hurdle was established in 1969, its title being an ode to the nickname of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers based close to Newcastle where this race is of course run.

Newcastle’s top hurdle race, these days a Grade 1 event, has been won in the past by such superstars as Sea Pigeon and Kribensis among others and is considered one of the best trials for the Champion Hurdle that takes place on Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival.

The Fighting Fifth is run over two miles and half a furlong and takes place in late November or early December every year, the 2020 edition being run on Saturday 28th November.

As well as the aforementioned stars, this race has been successfully used as a Champion Hurdle stepping stone by Buveur D’Air as recently as 2017 and, but for an unfortunate fall, he could well have landed the race again last year having taken this event in great style just over three months earlier.

2020 Fighting Fifth Hurdle Key Runners

From the list of 17 initial Fighting Fifth Hurdle entries, just 10 have been left in at the five-day stage. The final field won’t be known until 48 hours before the race, but here are the horses seemingly heading to Newcastle to contest this prestigious Grade 1 event:

  1. Cornerstone Lad (Micky Hammond)
  2. Millers Bank (Alex Hales)
  3. Not So Sleepy (Hughie Morrison)
  4. Ribble Valley (Nicky Richards)
  5. Sceau Royal (Alan King)
  6. Silver Streak (Evan Williams)
  7. Solo Saxophone (Ben Haslam)
  8. Voix Du Reve (Iain Jardine)
  9. Epatante (Nicky Henderson)
  10. Marie’s Rock (Nicky Henderson)*

*Also holds an entry in the Gerry Feilden Intermediate Handicap Hurdle at Newbury on the same day.

Fighting Fifth Hurdle 2020 Favourites:

Ante post betting on the Fighting Fifth Hurdle is now available with bookmakers happy to take punters’ money ahead of the only elite level jumps race in the Northeast. These are some of the favourites to win this prestigious race:

Epatante (8/13)

Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante made great strides last season and, given the progress she made from intermediate handicap company to the top top-miler over the smaller obstacles, she has to be favourite for this. Trainer Nicky Henderson and owner JP McManus have targeted the Fighting Fifth in recent seasons too, successfully teaming up three times since 2013, so it looks very much like she will make her reappearance up at Newcastle.

On Christmas Hurdle form from Kempton and her Cheltenham Festival triumph, Epatante has the beating of Silver Streak who could also be back on Tyneside for this. There is no reason to suppose anything will be any different this term than last season, as she again gets the valuable 7lb sex allowance from the geldings. It makes Epatante very much the one they all have to beat in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.

Sceau Royal (11/2)

Alan King’s Sceau Royal has been back to his best over hurdles this season, winning both of his starts to date. After landing the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las, he followed-up back in Grade 2 company in the Elite Hurdle around Wincanton. Having mopped up the prize money on offer in those races at southern tracks, he could head back to Tyneside for another cracking at the Fighting Fifth. Sceau Royal came fourth in the 2016 renewal on his third run of the season, running slightly below market expectation at odds of 9/4.

However, the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede trained gelding was only a four-year-old in open company then trying to take on his elders off level weights. Sceau Royal is twice that age now, race-fit and has seen Welsh Champion runner-up Ballyandy fill the same spot in the Greatwood at Cheltenham’s November Meeting earlier this month. This horse has won a Grade 1 over fences as a novice chaser, so now bids to add success at the highest level over the smaller obstacles to his CV at long last. With Goshen not going to Newcastle, it is easy to see why bookmakers have Sceau Royal as the main danger to Epatante at 11/2.

Ribble Valley (8/1)

Of all the northern trained horses in the race this year, including 2019 winner Cornerstone Lad, Ribble Valley is the shortest price. The form of his Grade 2 second in a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Trial at Ascot has worked out well thanks to the fourth home, McFabulous, who has since won three on the bounce. Ribble Valley, who is trained by Nicky Richards, is three from four over obstacles and landed an intermediate race at Carlisle with plenty in hand on his return to action.

For a seven-year-old, he is very lightly-raced and his shrewd connections have placed him very well thus far. Richards knows what it takes to win the Fighting Fifth Hurdle after saddling The French Furze to victory in 2003, but also that the race seldom attracts a big field as some of the southern and Irish stables won’t send their horses all that way. If Ribble Valley is an intended runner, then he could well have a say in the finish by outrunning his ante post odds here.

Silver Streak (6/1)

Although only third in last year’s Fighting Fifth, Silver Streak has placed three times in Grade 1 company. His trainer, Evan Williams, really believes he can win one at the highest level but what this grey gelding needs is a sound surface underfoot. That is not the most likely outcome, unless there is a mild winter, yet Silver Streak is clearly a better horse on good ground.

He now tries to back-up an impressive reappearance win when he confirmed previous Kempton form with Verdana Blue. Silver Streak has only ever won consecutive races once in his career to date, however. Conceding 7lb and race fitness to Nicky Henderson’s Michael Tabor owned mare was no mean feat, but he his victory had some of the gloss taken off it when Verdana Blue was beaten when back against her own sex. Silver Streak is a good each-way bet at the odds on offer for the Fighting Fifth.

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Fighting Fifth Hurdle Stats & Trends

The first thing to note about the Fighting Fifth Hurdle is its recent history of upsets. Some hot favourites have been beaten at Newcastle in this race recently, so don’t rule out the possibility of a shock. Trends and stats go out the window when this happens, but it is worth knowing the following:

  • As a Grade 1 race you would naturally expect this race to be won by a high-class hurdler, and indeed it usually is. As such, age is relatively unimportant with 17 of the last 19 Fighting Fifth winners aged 5-8, with one 4-year-old and one at 9 having taken the race in this time.
  • Even a brief glance at winning connections tells you that you should be on the lookout for those trained by top yards, especially those travelling from the south or from Ireland, though jockey bookings are less telling as trainers can have runners wherever they like but riders may have engagements a little closer to hom
  • Most successful horses – Two have won the race three times but not since the 1970s. That decade was dominated by the hat-trick of legendary hurdler Comedy Of Errors (1972, 1973, 1974) and Birds Nest also scored three times in four seasons (1976, 1977, 1979). Multiple winners of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle are common, so always respect previous victors
  • Leading trainer – Nicky Henderson has trained four horses to a record five wins in total here, starting with Landing Light (2001), then Punjabi (2008), and JP McManus owned pair My Tent Or Yours (2013) and Buveur D’Air (2017, 2018). Anything horse sent up from his Seven Barrows stable to Newcastle commands respect, then
  • Leading jockey – Barry Geraghty rode a record three winners of the Fighting Fifth but has now retired. Henry Brooke, Harry Cobden, Bryan Cooper and Denis O’Regan are two active jockeys to have won the race before.
  • Favourites – Four market leaders have justified their status in this race since 2008. The same number of second-favourites have also won the Fighting Fifth Hurdle in that time. While that may suggest that it pays to follow the market principals, hotpots have been beaten in the race, notably in 2019 and 2016.

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2019 Fighting Fifth Hurdle Results

What Happened in 2019?

The reputation that the Fighting Fifth Hurdle has for upsets continued when Cornerstone Lad made almost every yard of the running and turned over long odds-on favourite Buveur D’Air, who was bidding for a historic hat-trick in the race. Only one horse, the legendary Comedy Of Errors, has managed to win it three years running. Buveur D’Air picked up a nasty injury to his right fore hoof when part of a hurdle bar splintered off into it.

Given what happened to Nicky Henderson and JP McManus’s star hurdler, it was miraculous that he finished the race. Buveur D’Air went down fighting by a short-head to the Yorkshire trained 16/1 Cornerstone Lad on desperately heavy ground with the front two pulling over three lengths clear of Listed Kempton scorer Silver Streak. Useful dual purpose mare Lady Buttons, also trained in the White Rose country, was back in fourth and didn’t quite run up to her form.

Past Fighting Fifth Hurdle Winners

Given the great record of favourites in the race and the fact that Gordon Elliott had brought him all the way from Ireland, 6/5 jolly Samcro was very much expected to win the Fighting Fifth Hurdle 2018.

Indeed, Jack Kennedy’s mount put in a high-class display and finished 13 lengths clear of Vision Des Flos, however he was no match for the 2017 winner Buveur D’Air who romped away to land the race for a second time by fully 8 lengths at the line, priced-up the 11/8 second-favourite.

On this occasion Nicky Henderson’s star hurdler could not go on to make it a second winning Champion Hurdle performance after his exciting Fighting Fifth Newcastle 2018 win, though after falling at Cheltenham when very well fancied, but nonetheless it was a top-quality renewal.

Here’s how Fighting Fifth winners have done at the Festival since 2010:

Year Winner Age Jockey Trainer Festival Performance
2020 Epatante 6 Aidan Coleman Nicky Henderson TBD
2019 Cornerstone Lad 5 Henry Brooke Micky Hammond Pulled up in Champion Hurdle
2018 Buveur D’Air 7 Barry Geraghty Nicky Henderson Fell in Champion Hurdle
2017 Buveur D’Air 6 Barry Geraghty Nicky Henderson 1st in Champion Hurdle
2016 Irving 8 Harry Cobden Paul Nicholls Did not race
2015 Identity Thief 5 Bryan Cooper Henry De Bromhead 6th in Champion Hurdle
2014 Irving 6 Nick Scholfield Paul Nicholls Did not race
2013 My Tent Or Yours 6 Tony McCoy Nicky Henderson 2nd in Champion Hurdle
2012 Countrywide Flame 4 Denis O’Regan John Quinn 3rd in Champion Hurdle
2011 Overturn 7 Jason Maguire Donald McCain 2nd in Champion Hurdle
2010 Peddlers Cross 5 Jason Maguire Donald McCain 2nd in Champion Hurdle

About the Author

 Jamie Clark

Jamie Clark

Jamie Clark has been around horse racing and betting his entire life. His father and godfather ran a trackside bookmaker's pitch at Market Rasen Racecourse in Lincolnshire for many years. Jamie was Sports Editor for Coral's digital platforms between 2014 and 2017, and has since become a successful freelancer.