A preview of the Triple Crown of Hurdling by Hector Steiff

While we celebrate the announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that spectators can finally return to racecourses from next week we can also look ahead to one of the bookmarks in the racing calendar, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Gosforth Park, Newcastle

Named after the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers whose nickname was the “Fighting Fifth” the race, once a Grade 2 and also run for some time in the 1990’s as a handicap in it’s early days it will always be best remembered for it’s three time winner, Comedy Of Errors in 1972,1973 and 1974

Nowadays considered the first leg of the Triple crown of hurdling, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle has been run since 1969 and is the first of the trio of open Grade 1 two mile hurdles that also include the Christmas Hurdle held at Kempton and of course the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March

Only two horses have taken all three legs of the Triple Crown of hurdling: Kribensis trained by Sir Michael Stoute in the 1989/90 season and more recently, Nicky Henderson with his superlative Buveur d’Air in 2017/18

The cast list of those who have completed two of the three legs reads like a who’s who of famous two mile hurdlers and includes Sea Pigeon, Dawn Run, Harchibald, My Tent Or Yours and Faugheen amongst a memorable hall of fame in this office stretching back over the past 40 years

When we come to preview this year’s renewal we find another winner of two of the three legs lining up who could make an attempt at the Triple Crown this season, Nicky Henderson’s Epatante. Running in the famed green and gold hoops of one JP McManus, Epatante provided the Seven Barrows handler with his eighth victory in the Cheltenham showpiece on the opening day, the Champion Hurdle, and can now launch an attempt on the elusive triple crown at Newcastle on Saturday in the first leg, the Fighting Fifth

Nicky Henderson’s National Hunt campaign should be an exciting one such is his embarrassment of riches at his Lambourn base. With former triple crown winner, Buveur d’Air back in training after his unfortunate but season ending injury in last year’s Fighting Fifth where a splinter from one of the hurdles caused significant damage, Nicky Henderson has stated that he is well on the road to his racetrack return which could be in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown In February, if not before

This year’s renewal of the Fighting Fifth is a classic in itself with the Welsh Champion Hurdle winner Sceau Royal looking in tip top form when backing up that win at Chepstow with victory in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton

Evan Williams runs the ever impressive Silver Streak, third in this race a year ago while last year’s shock winner Cornerstone lad returns to defend his title. Micky Hammond’s charge stole a lead after a tardy start by the remainder of the field which led to a thrilling finish as Buveur d’Air just failed to head Henry Brooke and Cornerstone Lad emptying their tank to cross the line just a short head in front of Henderson’s Champion Hurdler and dual past winner of this race

In a fascinating renewal, Epatante will no doubt get plenty of market support as the current Champion Hurdler and winner of five of her six starts over hurdles but in Sceau Royal and Silver Streak she meets two classy rivals who both have proven race fitness and wins under their belts this season. Evan Williams will be hoping for no further rain before Saturday’s showpiece while Alan King, trainer of Sceau Royal will be happy on any ground and this pair are the main dangers to Champion Hurdler Epatante

This Preview has been brought to you by our regular correspondent, Hector Steiff

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