The Fighting Fifth Hurdle (2.05pm, Newcastle, Saturday) is the second in the series of six races, promoted as ‘The Road to Cheltenham,’ which culminates with the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
The last horse to complete the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and Champion Hurdle double was Punjabi in 2008/09 and Nicky Henderson is taking a similar route with last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up, My Tent Or Yours.
My Tent Or Yours (best at 4/5 with William Hill) was beaten half a length by Champagne Fever in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but is currently as short as 5/1 for the Champion Hurdle and is unquestionably a worthy favourite here.
He has an absence of 239 days to overcome, but his trainer reports him ‘pretty straight’ and he has 5lb and upwards in hand of his rivals, according to official ratings. On paper, it’s hard to see him not being involved in the finish, especially with A.P. McCoy in the saddle, but the reigning champion trainer has been in less than invincible form recently, so there may be some each-way value to be found elsewhere. Nicky Henderson has saddled nine winners in the last 14 days, but also 10 losers at odds of 3/1 or shorter, including six favourites, four of them odds-on.
Melodic Rendezvous (11/4 Stan James) made a promising return to action when winning the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton three weeks ago by 1¾ lengths from Far West, with Cotton Mill (20/1 Bet365, BetVictor) a further 6½ lengths behind in fourth. He’s just 2lb worse off with Cotton Mill, so should be capable of confirming the form, but Far West did little to advertise it when only fourth of five, beaten 9¼ lengths, in a small intermediate hurdle at Haydock last Saturday.
Grumeti (10/1 Coral, BetVictor) was a Grade 1 winner over hurdles as a juvenile, but has raced just once over obstacles in the last 18 months, finishing fourth, off a handicap mark of 153, in the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr last April. He’s a rare runner in the race for Alan King, but the BarburyCastle trainer must surely have left something to work on after 224 days away, so Grumeti is hard to recommend.
North Yorkshire trainer John Quinn sent out Countrywide Flame to win the Fighting Fifth Hurdle last year, at the expense of odds-on favourite Cinders And Ashes, and tries again this year with his promising mare Cockney Sparrow (14/1 Betfred, Ladbrokes).
The daughter of Cockney Rebel has 12lb to find with My Tent Or Yours on official ratings but, with the benefit of a recent run and some of Nicky Henderson’s horses seemingly needing their initial outing, she looks excellent value for a place at the very least. The form of her Wetherby win has already been franked by the third, Alasi, and if there is to be a surprise then she could cause it.
Nicky Richards, trainer of Duke Of Navan (16/1 William Hill, BetVictor), has voiced his desire to see his charge take on the likes of My Tent Or Yours and Melodic Rendezvous, but has admitted that he will improve significantly for the run after missing an intended engagement at Haydock last week because of a minor setback. The Presenting gelding is clearly held in high regard, but his future almost certainly lies over fences and he’s probably best watched on this occasion.
Fighting Fifth Hurdle Betting Tips Advice
With doubts about My Tent Or Yours, at very short odds, and Melodic Rendezvous, our betting tips advice is to back COCKNEY SPARROW each-way at 14/1 with Ladbrokes, Betfred or Stan James. John Quinn will be trying hard to achieve at least a place to increase her value as a broodmare for northern owner Paul Cunningham and she’s far from a forlorn hope of causing an upset.