Cornerstone Lad booked for Fighting Fifth repeat, then chasing beckons

Micky Hammond’s Cornerstone Lad will attempt to retain his Fighting Fifth Hurdle crown before embarking on a chasing career.

The six-year-old returned to winning ways on the Flat at Redcar on Tuesday, claiming a one-mile-six-furlong handicap by a neck from Jackamundo.

Redcar was also the scene of the gelding’s seasonal reappearance in October, when he finished fourth in another handicap on the level over the same distance.

“We did it last year,” Hammond said of the decision to run the Grade One-winner on the Flat in the early part of the season.

“He won on the Flat at Catterick before he won at Wetherby and then went on to the Fighting Fifth. That shows he’s well capable of winning on the Flat, but obviously he’s a far better jumper than a Flat horse.

“That was our thinking behind it really, but it was great that he got his head back in front.”

Hammond is now aiming for a repeat of last season’s Fighting Fifth success on November 28 before he begins to campaign his stable star over fences.

“He’s going to the Fighting Fifth, he’ll be going back to Newcastle for that,” he said.

“I think the long-term plan would be to go steeplechasing, he’s been schooling over fences as well as hurdles and I think that’s probably the route he’ll go down, that will happen after Newcastle.”

The Middleham trainer does not have a specific starting point in mind for the bay’s switch to fences, preferring to see how he schools after his recent exertions and go from there.

“We’ve not got any plans really,” he said.

“We’ll just see how he comes out of the Redcar race and then just build up from there.”

Hammond planning second Flat spin for Cornerstone Lad

Cornerstone Lad is set to have a second warm-up run on the Flat before connections decide whether to bid for back-to-back victories in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle or go straight over fences.

Trainer Micky Hammond was happy with the six-year-old’s effort at Redcar when he was fourth in a mile-and-three-quarters handicap on his first start since he was pulled up in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

A wind operation during the summer appears to have helped Cornerstone Lad and the Hammond team can now look forward to the winter.

“He’s doing fine. I was pleased with his run. He had a wind op in the mid to late summer,” said the North Yorkshire handler.

“I think he’ll have one more run before he goes back jumping.

“He’s sure to have an entry in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and there’s a good chance he will go novice chasing this season.

“I’ve yet to properly discuss it with Mrs Lofthouse, his owner, but I think there’s every chance he’ll be doing that this time around. We’re keeping our options open.

“He hasn’t done any schooling over fences this time around. He did school over fences last year. He’s been up the Middleham all-weather track jumping six French-style Southwell hurdles on a couple of occasions.

“That’s the only jumping he’s done since he’s been back in.

“I think he’ll run on the Flat towards the end of this month, providing there is sufficient cut in the ground, then we’ll decide if we go for the Fighting Fifth or go straight over fences, or win the Fighting Fifth again and stay over hurdles.

“It’s a nice problem to have.”