Aurore D’Estruval Fighting Fifth Improver
Fighting Fifth Hurdle
Newcastle stage their biggest day of the jumps season on Saturday courtesy of the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle (2.05).
Won by the likes of Harchibald and Go Native during the last 10 years, it takes a hurdler out of the top drawer to win this historic race, especially on testing soft ground on such a stiff track and one who looks tailor-made for the job is the current 7/4 favourite, Irving.
This dual Grade 2 winner last season was set to make a winning return in another Grade 2 at Wincanton a few weeks ago, but for falling at the last, and seeks to make amends here. The only concern is that he flopped when favourite during his only foray into Grade 1 class at the Cheltenham Festival in March, although he does emerge from the right end of the market…
Of the last 10 Fighting Fifth Hurdles…
10 returned 4/1 or shorter – others were 0-44
10 made the top two last time
9 won over 2m
8 had 1-4 runs in Grade 1 hurdles
7 were officially rated 151 or higher
7 won 1-3 Grade 1 events
N Henderson won it twice
Also in the top two last time was Willie Mullins’ Arctic Fire (7/2), a 5yo who was Grade 1 placed last season, and was beaten 3l in a Grade 2 on his return last month. The overall view is that he may have reached the ceiling of his ability, however, suggesting Grade 1 company could prove too hot.
Elsewhere, John Quinn’s Aurore D’Estruval (5/1) was beaten 10l in a Grade 1 at Aintree last April, prior to showing considerable improvement in landing a Listed hurdle at Wetherby three weeks ago (2m, good). A winner on heavy ground, he could surprise a few people come Saturday.
Another last time out winner was John Ferguson’s Purple Bay (6/1), who also recorded a career best in landing a Grade 2 at Wincanton two weeks ago, and while he is respected, it needs noting that particular race at Wincanton hasn’t provided the winner of this race during the last 10 years (0-10).
Ferguson also saddles Sea Lord (16/1), who makes his return having last been seen when well beaten in an Aintree Grade 1 (2m4f, good to soft). It’s possible he never got the trip, and this switch back to 2m will help.
It will be a major shock if either Swaledale Lad (66/1) or Volcanic Jack (500/1) worry the main protagonists.
A small field, but very competitive, and while Irving is the “buzz horse”, the fact he blew out the last twice doesn’t make his price of 7/4 of interest. Aurore D’Estruval each-way at 5/1 looks the bet, as he is only 6lb inferior to the favourite, but could still improve further.