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Unibet Fighting Fifth Hurdle (Grade 1)
Fighting Fifth Hurdle tips for December’s Grade 1 race. Won twelve months ago by Irving who managed to fend off the smart Apple’s Jade, will we see another upset in this competitive contest. Read on for our free betting tips, predictions and analysis.
The best place to start is last year’s winner Irving for Paul Nicholls, who managed to gamely fend off the gallant Apple’s Jade who rallied close home. Now at the age of nine, his task will be much tougher this time around, not least due to the possible presence of Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air. He was solidly out of form towards the end of last season, but he goes well fresh and loves softer ground, so couldn’t be discounted with any confidence, especially if the rain pours down on the days leading up to the race.
Speaking of Buveur D’Air, much has been discussed about this race being his starting point for the season. He won five in a row over both codes last season for Nicky Henderson and he would be arriving at Newcastle on a Grade 1 hat-trick for JP McManus. He was sublime when drawing right away to win the Champion Hurdle at the Festival and backed up that run with a comfortable success in the Aintree Hurdle a month later. Henderson said as recently as November 9th that he was ready to go for this race and he’ll more than likely to off favourite.
Perhaps one of the unluckiest horses of 2016, Campeador fell from the lead at the final flight in two races for Gordon Elliott. He made good on his potential though when returning with a very comfortable victory at Punchestown in October, travelling strongest and powering clear when asked by Barry Geraghty. He remains with potential after only six hurdling runs and with the best yet to come, he’d be another strong contender for JP McManus.
Willie Mullins is likely to play his hand in the race and there are two horses he could realistically send to the contest. The smart, dual-purpose Wicklow Brave was tenth in the Melbourne Cup when last seen and over hurdles he was last sighted winning the Punchestown Champion Hurdle thanks to an enterprising ride. If anywhere near that form back over timber he’d be a credible threat, though the more interesting runner is perhaps Arctic Fire. After being off the track for thirteen months, he produced one of the best performances at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival to win the County Hurdle off top weight of 11st 12lb. He followed up that run with a great third to that aforementioned stable-mate in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle and he’s a live danger now that he’s been given another break.
Although at the age of twelve, Hidden Cyclone continues to be as admirable as ever for John Joseph Hanlon, finishing third in this race twelve months ago. He has been kept rolling throughout 2017, which would give him the fitness edge in the race but he’s clearly not the horse he once was, well beaten in a Rated Hurdle at Punchestown in October. Something looked amiss that day though and if a small field does once again emerge for this race, he could sneak into the money.