THIS AFTERNOON’S GRADE 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle has attracted five runners at the final declaration stage.
Anything can happen in a small field and while you should never dismiss the chances of any horse, this is basically a three horse race.
Celestial Halo‘s victory on his reappearance at Wincanton three weeks ago was helped by the fall of Grandouet at the second-last flight. The latter went on to an effortless win at Haydock last Saturday, and the forecast for rain in the area will help Celestial Halo’s cause this time out.
Binocular had a bit of a disappointing end to his season at Punchestown last May. Trainer Nicky Henderson believes that the 2010 Champion Hurdler has returned from his holidays at his owner’s stud in great nick. However, it is worth noting that Bincoular has been beaten on his seasonal debut in this race for the last two years.
Although Henderson has been in great form this last week, some of his horses appear to need a run and I get the impression from listening to the trainer that there are more important prizes ahead for Binocular.
Overturn makes a quick reappearance after his victory at Ascot last Saturday. Nobody knows whether he would have beaten Oscar Whiskey or not had the latter stayed upright. Even the two jockeys, Jason Maguire and Barry Geraghty, appear undecided about how that run-in would have panned out.
But this is his last race before a long holiday and it looks like trainer Donald McCain is adopting a “nothing to lose” policy. In top class company, Overturn would need better ground than he will get here.
The two other runners Kosta Brava and Stormy Weather will need a miracle to trouble the judge.
It’s a tight race and a difficult one to call. Put a small stake on CELESTIAL HALO to win, just for the interest.
The Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle goes off at Newbury at 2.35 and it looks like a benefit for the Paul Nicholls-trained Big Buck’s. He will almost be unbackable unless you want to bet at extremely short odds.
The best staying hurdler of this or any other generation, the only pity is that Big Buck’s never took to chasing. Nonetheless, he’s a superb ambassador for National Hunt racing.
He comes in here rated 24lb better than his nearest rival Duc De Regniere, and although the latter is four pounds better off than he was when beaten by three lengths in this race last year, BIG BUCK’S won that contest with consummate ease and must surely be the nap of the day.