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2018 Fighting Fifth Hurdle tips – Favourite to leave clean Air between himself and Newcastle rivals

Jonathan Vine 27 Nov 2018
Buveur D'Air clears the last under Barry Geraghty before winning the Fighting Fifth Hurdle last year.

Our expert takes a look through the betting for the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and provides readers with his tips for the main event at Newcastle.

For the best part of 50 years, the best two milers in the business have been traveling to Newcastle to take part in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. The Fighting Fifth is often seen as an ideal opportunity for a trainer to test his horse’s Champion Hurdle credentials, with Comedy Of Errors, Night Nurse and Sea Pigeon all scoring at Newcastle before claiming Champion Hurdle glory later in the season.

Buveur D’Air (11/10 Paddy Power) added his name to that illustrious list 12 months ago and Nicky Henderson’s charge heads the betting for Saturday’s renewal. Nicky Henderson’s switch back to hurdling worked as Buveur D’Air claimed Champion Hurdle glory in 2017. On his first start since lifting that fabled trophy, the JP McManus-owned gelding came here to Newcastle, winning the Fighting Fifth without ever coming out of second gear.

Following another triumph in the Christmas Hurdle, Nicky Henderson gave his star hurdler an easy Cheltenham warm-up in the Contenders’ Hurdle. Heavy ground was never going to be to the favourite’s liking in the Champion Hurdle, but Buveur D’Air toughed it out, seeing off a spirited performance from Melon to retain his Champion Hurdle crown.

Gordon Elliott has never been shy to send a runner over to Newcastle and Saturday’s race could see Samcro (2/1 Coral) make his second appearance of the season. Lauded like the second coming of Jesus Christ himself last season, Samcro has now suffered two straight defeats since that excellent victory in the Ballymore at Cheltenham.

Jack Kennedy’s mount was travelling nicely alongside Melon before both came down three from home in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle. Elliott’s star had to shoulder a penalty on his reappearance and looked desperately in need of the run, losing out to Bedrock (12/1 Coral) on the sprint to the line. It’s still hard to say definitively whether Gigginstown have made the right decision in leaving Samcro over hurdles and Saturday’s race will go a long way to telling us whether he is a genuine Champion Hurdle contender.

Samcro (centre) on his way to victory in the Ballymore at Cheltenham.

On the same day that Buveur D’Air made is back-to-back Festival wins, Summerville Boy (9/2 BetVictor) handed Tom George a memorable Cheltenham victory in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. George’s novice had been overlooked slightly in the betting, with punters piling into Getabird and Kalashnikov, but it was Noel Fehily’s mount who prevailed on the sprint to the finishing line.

That was a second Grade One on the bounce for Summerville Boy, having comfortably seen off Kalashnikov in the Tolworth Hurdle at the start of the year. Both of those victories came on heavy ground and it won’t be a bog up in Newcastle this weekend. Despite that, Summerville Boy proved his Grade One credentials last term and cannot be discounted.

I don’t want to spend too much time discussing the other entrants in Saturday’s race, as this – for all intents and purposes – looks like a thrilling three-horse race. That may be a little unfair on Bedrock, considering he beat Samcro the last day, but the weights will be level this time around and I can’t see him producing a third shock-performance on the bounce. 

Apple’s Jade (12/1 Paddy Power) still currently holds an entry, but Sunday’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle is her intended target. Vision Des Flos (25/1 BetVictor) ran a decent race behind Wholestone at Aintree, having tipped up on his reappearance in a novice chase, but I doubt whether he - or market backmarker Bleu Et Rouge (150/1 Coral) - will have much say in the matter on Saturday.

Noel Fehily salutes the crowd after riding Summerville Boy to Supreme Novices' Hurdle glory.

Summerville Boy is clearly a very capable hurdler and Tom George must have enormous confidence in his Supreme winner to pitch him into a Grade One on his first start outside novice company. There’s plenty of progression left in the tank and he will continue winning this term, but conditions on Saturday won’t be in Summerville Boy’s favour and I fear he may be in need of the outing.

If the ground was to come up heavy, then Samcro’s extra staying power would come in handy. I would be amazed if Elliott's six-year-old hadn’t come on following that limp reappearance, but I’m not convinced at all that the choice to remain over hurdles is right for the horse and I don’t see the flat speed needed to be a top two-miler.

With the weather forecast looking fairly dry towards the end of the week and course form on his side, the stage looks set for BUVEUR D’AIR to teach his younger rivals a thing or two.

Nicky Henderson’s charge is the best jumper of a hurdle in the business. The seven-year-old is so fluid through the air and he doesn’t waste any energy. Henderson’s quotes last season that Buveur D’Air needs a lot of work to stay fit may suggest first time out is the best place to catch him. Yet, the stats paint a different picture, with Buveur D’Air coming out on top of all three of his reappearances to date.

The champion hated every second on the heavy turf at Cheltenham and still had enough class to see off Melon and retain his crown. With question marks against his rivals in the market, Buveur D’Air is the most logical selection. He's the best jumper in the field, the reigning Fighting Fifth winner and a dual-Champion Hurdler. 11/10 looks a mightily appealing price.

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2018 Fighting Fifth Hurdle tips – Favourite to leave clean Air between himself and Newcastle rivals

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