Fighting Fifth Hurdle Ante-Post Tips

This year’s renewal of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle looks set to be a cracker. 2020 Champion hurdle winner Epatante bids to retain his title in the race but could line up against the unbeaten Monmiral for Paul Nicholls, who was impressive in all four of his races last season.

There is certainly value to be had in the ante-post market with nine days to go until the big race, but who could run out a worthy winner and who could chase them home? Here are my thoughts:

 

Win Selection – Epatante (2/1)

When Epatante bolted up in last year’s Fighting Fifth she looked better than ever, yet a back injury meant that the second half of her season was one to forget.

However, the mare still finished third in both the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle and Punchestown Champion Hurdle – behind Honeysuckle and Sharjah on both occasions. That is no easy task and a key reason why I fancy her to give trainer Nicky Henderson his fourth winner in the last five renewals of this race.

Epatante is said to be back to her best heading into next week’s race and the forecast suggests she may well get the good ground that she’s after, though if the rain comes then it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

The doubt of whether the injury may still be present could be enough to, understandably, put some punters off backing the seven-year-old. But she’s had a lot of time to recover and if she is anywhere near back to her usual self then she will take some beating. She is a great jumper, always travels well and has the gears to put a race to bed in a matter of strides.

With currently 2/1 available with William Hill, this may well prove a slight bit of value as other bookmakers are already only offering shorter odds (7/4) and the field is indefinitely going to be cut down significantly.

 

Each Way – Silver Streak (12/1)

As mentioned, plenty in this ante-post market won’t be at Newcastle on the 27th, but Silver Streak is a fairly safe option for an each-way bet even at this stage. The gelding caused a major upset last season when beating Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle with a classy front-running display, and he certainly could run into a place here.

The Evan Williams-trained eight-year-old has a lot in his favour as it stands, especially as there doesn’t appear to be too much pace in the race and he could have it all his own way out in front. Silver Streak is a strong stayer and has a real turn of foot, if given too much rope out in the lead then he could prove very tricky to reel back in.

The gelding disappointed at odds of 4/6 in his first run of the season at Kempton last month, coming second to Sceau Royal – who has since won the Unibet Hurdle with ease. Silver Streak was quite clearly not at his best that day and he jumped with no real fluency, but he should improve plenty for that outing and will have the fitness edge over most of his rivals.

With question marks over most of these rivals as to whether they’ll run, including second-favourite Monmiral who may not get his ground, an each-way punt on a horse who will quite literally run whatever the weather seems quite safe in a tricky ante-post market.