Irving Ripe For Fighting Fifth Repeat

One of the main pointers in finding the winner of Saturday’s Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle (2.05) is to keep within range of those at the head of the betting.

Brave Wicklow Up For Fight
Indeed, with nine of the last 10 winners of this race having returned 4/1 or shorter, Willie Mullins’, Wicklow Brave (6/4), heads to Newcastle with excellent credentials, having won last season’s County Hurdle at Cheltenham (2m1f, soft). Further improvement came back on the Flat throughout the year, prior to his close third in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown (2m, soft) a few weeks ago.

That effort demonstrated that Wicklow Brave was up to winning a Grade 1 event, and the forecast soft ground at the weekend will be to his liking. It will also be the first time Wicklow Brave will have raced at Newcastle, which hasn’t proven a disadvantage on past trends.

Fighting Fifth Trends
Of the last 10 winners…
9 returned 4/1 or shorter
9 made the top two last time
9 won over 2m
8 had never run at Newcastle
7 were officially rated 151 or higher
7 won 1-3 Grade 1 events
N Henderson and D McCain Jnr both won it twice

More Success For In-Form Irving?
Also among the main fancies is last year’s winner of the race, Irving (7/2), who resumed this season in terrific form, winning both outings. The first was a 7l win in a Grade 2, prior to landing a valuable event at Haydock last weekend (2m, soft), beating Top Notch (4/1) over 1l in the process.

Clearly much improved since winning here 12 months ago, the ground will be in Irving’s favour on Saturday when a big run is expected.

One who has yet to show his wellbeing this term is the 4yo, Beltor (8/1), who won a Grade 2 in February (2m, soft), before finishing sixth in the Triumph at Cheltenham. It’s possible the first-time headgear caused Beltor to race too freely that day, and it will be interesting to see how much he has progressed throughout the summer.

Theft To Steal Prize
Punters looking for one in better form may look to Henry De Bromhead’s 5yo, Identity Theft (8/1), who showed gradual improvement last season, before reappearing last month to win a Grade 2 at Down Royal (2m, soft). Bryan Cooper made the running on Identity Theft to win comfortably that day, and the pair look sure to make it a real test on Saturday.

Another For Nicky?
But what of that man Nicky Henderson, who has sent out two Fighting Fifth winners since 2005 and has Top Notch this time around? Well, having finished well ahead of Beltor when runner-up in the triumph, Top Notch made a pleasing return when beaten just over 1l by Irving last weekend where that rival enjoyed a fitness advantage. Top Notch will be sharper on Saturday and it would be no surprise if he reversed form.

Recommended Bets
Wicklow Brave seems to be the talking horse having improved over the Flat, but he was beaten fair and square at Punchestown two weeks ago. The value therefore has to be last year’s Fighting Fifth winner, Irving, who keeps improving and is available at a juicy 7/2.