Tag Archive for: Newcastle

Donald McCain hits century mark at Newcastle

Donald McCain was keen to pay tribute to his staff after becoming the first trainer to claim 100 winners this season at Newcastle on Tuesday.

It is over a decade since the Cholmondeley handler first reached the century – ending the 2010/11 campaign with 100 winners exactly.

He went on to saddle 153, 141 and 142 winners respectively in the next three seasons, but recent years have been more of a struggle after losing more than 50 horses following a split with prominent owners Paul and Clare Rooney in 2015.

However, with former champion jockey Brian Hughes a key part of the team, the Grand National and Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer has enjoyed a genuine resurgence this term – as evidenced by the fact he has pipped multiple champion trainer Paul Nicholls to the century by one.

McCain said: “In my back of my mind at the start of the season I thought it would be lovely to get somewhere near to it, but there’s been no great plan. It’s just lovely to do it.

“It’s a great fillip for the yard. I can’t tell you how hard everyone’s working and most of these people have been with me through everything else – owners and staff and jockeys etc.

“The horses have been in great form since we started back. As I’ve said, there was no great plan to try to train a lot of winners, but they’ve kept winning and all of sudden we’ve arrived where we are.

“Any season you can train 100 winners is a good season and it’s credit to everyone that works here. You surround yourself with good people and hopefully good things will happen.”

Despite being McCain’s only runner at Newcastle, Cenotice was a largely unconsidered 12-1 shot for the DFE Electrical Handicap Chase.

The eight-year-old looked booked for minor honours on the run-in, but dug deep for conditional jockey Theo Gillard to prevail by a nose and the same from Treshnish and Gallic Geordie.

Brian Hughes is a big part of McCain's team
Brian Hughes is a big part of McCain’s team (Mike Egerton/PA)

McCain added: “I think it’s our fastest 100. I remember the year we had our most winners (153 in 2011/12) we did it with a four-timer at the Haydock meeting this coming Saturday.

“We’d had a good few seconds in the last few days and I was sort of resigned to the fact it wasn’t going to happen, but we took this horse to Newcastle and knew he had a chance.

“I thought we might have been beaten on the line, to be honest. I was thinking ‘we’ve come so close, but what a great finish to be involved in’.

“And then they showed the slow motion and I thought it was a possibility that we’d held on and thankfully we had, which is great.”

Williams could consider valuable Ascot handicap for Silver Streak

Evan Williams could drop Silver Streak into a handicap after the eight-year-old produced a somewhat disappointing effort when fourth of six in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.

Having chased home Sceau Royal on his seasonal debut at Kempton, hopes were high that last season’s Christmas Hurdle winner would show his best in the competitive Grade One event.

However, Adam Wedge’s mount failed to fire and was beaten eight lengths by Not So Sleepy and Epatante, who dead-heated.

Williams said: “He is grand, but he just didn’t jump and you can’t win those races when you don’t jump.

“I suppose he will be entered in the Christmas Hurdle, but I might enter him in a handicap – the Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle (formerly known as the Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle) – because they have dropped him 4lb for Saturday’s run.

“I might go to Ascot with him and drop him down. I was just disappointed by the way he jumped.

“We will have a little check to see that we are not missing something, but he is grand in himself and seems absolutely fine.

Silver Streak is a top-class hurdler at his best
Silver Streak is a top-class hurdler at his best (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He popped over a couple of hurdles on Monday, just because I couldn’t quite work out why he was so poor, but there was nothing obvious.

“We will put him in everything, so he has options. He will have an entry in the Betfair Exchange Trophy – the entries close today (Tuesday) and he will be entered in the Christmas Hurdle, and we will go from there.”

The Llancarfan trainer is keeping a watchful eye on the weather ahead of the weekend, with promising mare Current Mood holding an entry in Sandown’s Grade Two Ballymore Winter Novices’ Hurdle on Friday.

The six-year-old has won two from three over hurdles, but Williams may swerve the race and stay nearer to home for her next run.

He said: “Current Mood is entered at Sandown on Friday, but I would keep an eye on that, as the race I would really like to run her in comes at Haydock in a couple of weeks’ time – a mares’ Listed novice hurdle, which I think I would prefer to go to.

“I wouldn’t want to sniff at any black type with her though, as she is a grand mare and I would like to find a bit of black type with her. She will be entered in all those graded novices’ just to hunt a bit of black type.”

Like many trainers, Williams is desperate for the ground to ease after a thus-far dry winter.

Esprit Du Large has a weekend entry
Esprit Du Large has a weekend entry (Mark Kerton/PA)

He admitted: “I have a couple of nice horses entered at Sandown on Saturday – Mack The Man and Esprit Du Large – in the Listed Betfair Daily Rewards December Handicap Hurdle, but they could do with a drop of rain.

“I have a couple of nice ones in the Betfair Exchange London National Handicap Chase, but they also need a drop of rain.

“No Rematch is a nice horse, but wants proper soft ground, while Fado Des Brosses is another nice staying horse who wants soft ground and I’m desperate to get a start into them, but we have to do what is best for them.

“They have started to back up with me a little bit. I have a lot of soft-ground horses that need proper rain. It is very frustrating for people, but the job will come.”

Epatante and Not So Sleepy dead heat in thrilling Fighting Fifth finish

Defending champion Epatante and the mercurial talent that is No So Sleepy shared the honours after the judge called a dead-heat in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

Nicky Henderson’s 2020 Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante made a brilliant reappearance in the Gosforth Park feature 12 months ago, but subsequent defeats at Kempton, Cheltenham and Punchestown meant she returned to Gosforth Park with a point to prove.

So too did the Hughie Morrison-trained Not So Sleepy, who showed his worst side when jinking violently right and unseating his rider at the first flight in last year’s renewal, then running loose and carrying out the re-opposing Silver Streak at the second obstacle.

Having undergone back surgery during the summer, Epatante was the 11-8 favourite to get back on the winning trail and provide Henderson with a record seventh Fighting Fifth success under Aidan Coleman.

Not So Sleepy, meanwhile, was an 18-1 shot in the hands of Jonathan Burke off the back of finishing second on the Flat at Doncaster last month.

Epatante travelled with her customary zest for much of the two-mile journey and moved smoothly into contention from the home turn, but was made to fight for it by both Not So Sleepy and Sceau Royal.

To the naked eye, Henderson’s mare looked to have just got the better of Not So Sleepy in a driving finish passing the post, but the they could not be split in the photo.

Speaking from Newbury, Henderson said: “She has run a great race. From what I could see, her jumping was fantastic and that was her biggest weapon.

“That is what she had lost last year and she hurdled beautifully all the way and if she got up, we’d be grateful – we’ll take anything.

“It will be the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton next – no doubt about that.

“I know the plan. JP (McManus, owner) and I said Fighting Fifth and then Kempton, and then we’ll decide what we do after that. It is not going to stop me going to Kempton!”

Paddy Power trimmed Epatante to 10-1 from 14-1 to regain her Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham in March, while Not So Sleepy is a 50-1 shot.

Morrison was rightly proud of the performance of his stable star, saying: “What a horse. He won as a two-year-old on the Flat and here he is winning a Grade One coming into his 10th year.

Not So Sleepy (right) after the Fighting Fifth
Not So Sleepy (right) after the Fighting Fifth (Tim Goode/PA)

“We’ve trained him basically for this race since he ran in the Chester Cup (in May), where I felt he had a huge amount of weight.

“We wisely didn’t run him in the Cesarewitch or the November Handicap because I felt he had too much weight and great credit to all involved.

“He’s quite a challenge at home. My head lad rides him at home all the time and he actually went on holiday yesterday.

“This summer the horse has turned the corner actually and Johnny gave him a brilliant ride today.

“It’s my first Grade One National Hunt winner, so I think we’ll have a bit of a celebration.

“I don’t know where we’ll go next. Kempton at Christmas might be a bit quick.”

Aye gets it Right in Rehearsal Chase

Aye Right claimed the big-race victory he has long promised in a thrilling renewal of the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle.

One of just a handful of horses trained by Harriet Graham, who is also clerk of the course at Hamilton, the eight-year-old has flown the flag admirably for his small yard over the years.

As well as winning on seven previous occasions, Aye Right was last season placed in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and at the Cheltenham Festival, so few will begrudge him his day in the sun – or snow, as was the case at Gosforth Park.

Down the field over an inadequate trip at Kelso on his return to action at Kelso last month, the eight-year-old appeared far more at home stepping back up in distance.

Always to the fore in the hands of Callum Bewley, 5-1 chance Aye Right fenced fluently to ensure many of his rivals were under pressure a long way from home.

After seemingly mastering 9-2 market leader Good Boy Bobby, a final fence error gave favourite backers renewed hope, but Graham’s pride and joy clung on by a diminishing head.

Graham said: “It wasn’t the easiest trip to get here. We left early and we needed all the time we had.

Aye Right leads the way at Newcastle
Aye Right leads the way at Newcastle (Tim Goode/PA)

“It was an excellent result in a snowstorm, but who cares?

“He deserved to be in front this time, he really did. Callum rode him brilliantly and thanks to the owners and everybody involved – it’s just brilliant. I’m really made up.”

Paddy Power make Aye Right a 50-1 shot for the Grand National in the spring, but Graham is in no rush to decide whether he will line up for the Aintree spectacular.

“We need to discuss it with the owners,” she added.

“We’ve got the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on our radar – he was second in that last season. He’ll possibly go there, but let’s see how he is.”

Mr Glass digs deep to secure Newcastle prize

Mr Glass secured his fourth victory in succession with a determined front-running performance in the Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk ‘The French Furze’ Novices’ Hurdle at Newcastle.

A dual bumper winner last season and impressive on his hurdling debut at Chepstow last month, the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding was the 5-6 favourite for his latest assignment at Gosforth Park.

Sent straight to the lead by Sean Bowen, the archetypal chaser in the making was not always foot-perfect and he briefly looked in danger when challenged early in the home straight.

The well-backed Marble Sands and point-to-point winner Loughderg Rocco both loomed up looking serious threats – but to his credit, Mr Glass dug deep in the driving snow to see off the latter by a length.

Speaking from Newbury, Nicholls’ assistant Harry Derham said: “Mr Glass is a smashing horse – he’s next season’s chaser.

“I don’t think he will have a busy year. He is learning loads and as you can see, he is very green.

“I suspect he will run somewhere after Christmas in a nice, staying novice hurdle.”

Too Friendly made it two from two over obstacles with a clear-cut success in the Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow Introductory Juvenile Hurdle.

A useful performer on the Flat for George Scott, the gelded son of Camelot made a successful switch to the jumping sphere on his first start for Dan Skelton at Stratford last month.

Too Friendly (right) on his way to victory
Too Friendly (right) on his way to victory (Tim Goode/PA)

Well fancied to follow up as the 5-4 favourite, Too Friendly moved smoothly into contention under Bridget Andrews before pulling almost five lengths clear of market rival Twilight Twist on the run-in.

“He was really good,” Skelton said from Newbury.

“The runner-up made a mistake at the last which gifted it to us, but I think we may have had it covered at the time.

“It is good form and I think he’s a progressive horse.”

Scene Not Herd justified 15-8 favouritism in the Eileen Peacock Memorial Handicap Chase for trainer Charlie Longsdon and jockey Jonathan Burke.

Impressive on his return from 11 months off the track at Hereford a few weeks ago, the six-year-old made light of his welter burden of 11st 11lb – passing the post with six and a half lengths in hand over Luckofthedraw.

Longsdon said: “He was really electric at Hereford and I was slightly worried that 35 millimetres of rain (at Newcastle) might be too much for him.

“I had my reservations, but he’s a horse going the right way.

“We can step him up slightly now into better company.”

Winds Of Fire leads the way at Newcastle
Winds Of Fire leads the way at Newcastle (Tim Goode/PA)

The Evan Williams-trained Winds Of Fire came good under a cool ride from Adam Wedge in the Betfair Daily Rewards Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

Second on each of his final three starts of last season, the six-year-old came to grief at the first obstacle in the race won by Scene Not Herd at Hereford.

The 10-1 shot made no mistake on this occasion, however, travelling strongly before finding enough for pressure to repel Cooper’s Cross by a length and three-quarters.

Supporters of title-chasing Brian Hughes were in clover after the victory of Since Day One in the Living North EBF ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle.

Hughes was due to be in action at Bangor, but with that fixture abandoned, he instead made the journey to Newcastle for just one mount.

It proved worthwhile, however, with Donald McCain’s Since Day One striking gold at odds of 14-1.

Newcastle and Newbury set to beat the weather

Saturday’s high-profile fixtures at Newbury and Newcastle are set to go ahead despite the damage caused across Britain by Storm Arwen on Friday night.

It is the biggest day of the National Hunt season at Newcastle, with the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle the main attraction.

Clerk of the course James Armstrong arrived at Gosforth Park on Saturday morning following what he described as a “horrendous” night, but is optimistic the meeting will go ahead in its entirety.

“It’s been a long week,” Armstrong told Sky Sports Racing just after 10am.

“We watered earlier in the week to keep it safe and we’ve had 35 millimetres of rain in the last 24 hours, but it’s genuinely not much worse than good to soft.

“You couldn’t have raced this morning as we had four or five furlongs of running rail down in the back straight and a few hoardings have blown around and smashed through some permanent running rail.

“We’ve had to make quite a lot of repairs and our ground staff have had to clear driveways of broken trees last night.

“It was pretty horrendous last night – I’ve not seen weather like that in this country before.

“But the winds have abated hugely and the forecast is for it to drop away, so things are looking very favourable at the moment.”

Newbury, which stages the Ladbrokes Trophy, posted on Twitter on Saturday morning: “There is no scheduled inspection ahead of today’s racing, but we will be monitoring wind speeds closely.”

It was not good news everywhere, however, with clerk of the course Andrew Morris having no option but to call off proceedings at Bangor before daybreak.

He said: “We’ve had no power since around 2am and the latest update is we won’t get power back to the site until around 4pm, so that is obviously one factor.

“The second factor is there’s been damage to some of the public areas and they’re deemed to be unsafe.

“It’s not long-term damage, it’s just with the timescale we had this morning and the wind being as strong as it was, it was an easy decision on safety grounds.”

Wolverhampton’s Saturday evening card must pass a third check at 2pm if it is to go ahead due to snow.

Sunday’s meetings at Carlisle and Leicester are both subject to precautionary inspections at 8am due to the threat of frost.

Thomson relies on Dollar and Master for second Rehearsal success

Sandy Thomson fires a twin assault in his bid for back-to-back victories in the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle on Saturday.

The Berwickshire-based trainer saddled popular veteran Yorkhill to claim a surprise victory in the Listed contest 12 months ago and is this year represented by a pair of course and distance winners.

The market leader is The Ferry Master, who having rounded off last season by finishing fourth in the Scottish Grand National, made a promising return when third at Musselburgh earlier this month.

His stablemate Dingo Dollar filled the runner-up spot when favourite for the Scottish Grand National and is expected to improve from his comeback fourth at Kelso.

Thomson said: “It was a very competitive race that Dingo Dollar ran in at Kelso and it probably wasn’t an ideal preparation for The Ferry Master at Musselburgh, but it was the only place to go.

“We were delighted with both runs. Dingo Dollar is in great form, he’s run well in a couple of Ladbrokes Trophys in the past and he’s in on a nice mark.

“If you’re going to be realistic, you hope The Ferry Master is a progressive, young horse. Whether he quite stayed in the Scottish National, we’re not sure.

“I hope they’ll both run nice races on Saturday.”

The weights are headed by Ann Hamilton’s Nuts Well, who steps up to three miles for the first time after finishing fifth when defending his crown in the two-and-a-half-mile Old Roan Chase at Aintree.

Next on the list is the Harriet Graham-trained Aye Right, who blew away a few cobwebs when fifth behind Nuts Well at Kelso last month.

“Last year it was incredibly exciting to go to Newbury (finished second in Ladbrokes Trophy). We made a decision fairly early on that we won’t going there this year – it seems a very strong renewal of the race,” Graham told Sky Sports Racing.

“Newcastle is 45 minutes away, the Rehearsal Chase is also a competitive race and we decided to go local rather than go all the way to Newbury to take on the Irish.

“He so deserves to win a race. He’s come on immensely for that run (at Kelso) and we’ve also taken him to Carlisle for a racecourse gallop.

“He’s been working really well at home and schooled really well – it’s all systems go.”

Dan Skelton is keen on the chances of Spiritofthegames, who was only beaten seven lengths in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham a fortnight ago.

He said: “I’m starting to fancy him for this race. In the Paddy Power, he didn’t quite have the legs for two and a half miles.

“He’s a bit older, he’s been to all those two-and-a-half-mile dances and we’re now going to go to all the three-mile dances.

“Hopefully we can win one – he deserves to.

“I can see him going really well at Newcastle on decent ground.”

Newcastle anticipating rain ahead of Fighting Fifth highlight

Newcastle officials are bracing themselves for a stormy spell of weather ahead of their big meeting on Saturday, featuring the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle.

As much as 20 millimetres of rain could fall overnight on Friday and into Saturday, coupled with strengthening winds.

Clerk of the course James Armstrong described the ground as good, good to soft in places on Thursday but expects conditions to have eased come the first race at 11.45am on Saturday.

“It’s been pretty well publicised the weather has been fairly iffy on and off all week. The forecast has been changing every day but the latest forecast is we are due more rain starting tomorrow, pretty heavy through Friday night into Saturday,” said Armstrong.

“We’re looking at anything between 10 and upwards of millimetres of rain. We could get up to 20mm. It looks more likely to be wintry, slushy stuff with us but on the higher ground over the Pennines they are taking about some quite significant snow.

“Thankfully we’re close to the coast but that leaves us a bit more vulnerable to the winds, so we’ve got a few things to contend with. We’ve got the wind to worry about but I think the issue regarding wintry showers is a less of a concern, thankfully, being closer to the coast.

“We started the week with good ground on Monday and have been watering away. We put on near 20mm on the home straight this week and between five and eight on the rest of the course.

“We’re good, good to soft in places and obviously any rain that comes via nature’s assistance in the next two days will see things ease, possibly a fair bit more. It could turn to good to soft, maybe easier, depending on how it falls and when.”

Epatante faces five rivals in Fighting Fifth defence

Last year’s winner Epatante heads a field of six for the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.

The 2020 Champion Hurdle heroine, trained by Nicky Henderson, comfortably took the prize by four and a quarter lengths from Sceau Royal last term.

Alan King’s nine-year-old has race fitness on his side this time, having won a Listed contest at Kempton and the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton this autumn as he seeks to reverse that form.

Evan Williams will be hoping for better luck with Silver Streak, who was taken out at the second flight by the loose Not So Sleepy in this race 12 months ago. The grey has had the advantage of a run this season, finishing second to Sceau Royal at Kempton.

Not So Sleepy has a point to prove after unseating his rider and causing mayhem in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle last year
Not So Sleepy has a point to prove after unseating his rider and causing mayhem in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Hughie Morrison gives Not So Sleepy the chance to redeem himself on the back of a run on the Flat at Doncaster five weeks ago.

“He’s going to go and have a day out at Newcastle. Hopefully, he’ll behave better this time. He hadn’t jumped a hurdle for a while, like he hasn’t this time, but he’s always been one that has a look around when he’s doing something new,” said Morrison.

“Hopefully he’ll be better this time now he knows the geography of the place a bit better.”

Monmiral had a tremendous first campaign over hurdles for trainer Paul Nicholls. The four-year-old won all his four starts, culminating in the Grade One Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree.

Nicholls accepts it is a big ask at this stage of his career but he could not be happier with him.

Monmiral takes on classy seasoned campaigners for the first time at Newcastle
Monmiral takes on classy seasoned campaigners for the first time at Newcastle (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“He’s schooled this morning. He’s in good order. I’m looking forward to the challenge,” said the Ditcheat handler.

“It’s a step up in class for him, obviously, from what he’s been running in but he couldn’t have done more. He’s won all his completed starts.

“The form from Aintree has turned out well but it’s another step up in class for him. It is hard, that second year for four-year-olds. They don’t get any allowance over hurdles so he has to be at the top of his game and improve from last year.”

The Iain Jardine-trained Voix De Reve, fourth last year, completes the line-up. Belfast Banter was the only withdrawal at the 48-hour final declaration stage.

Monmiral ‘more likely’ to run at Newbury than in Fighting Fifth

Paul Nicholls is unlikely to run Monmiral in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday, with a dry forecast ahead.

Unbeaten in four starts for the Ditcheat handler, the four-year-old was last seen landing the Grade One Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree in April.

However, Nicholls is taking a watching brief as the French-bred son of Saint Des Saints – who is co-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson – would prefer a little more give underfoot and could head to Newbury for the Listed Ladbrokes Committed To Safer Gambling Intermediate Hurdle at Newbury instead.

Nicholls said: “Monmiral is entered in both races, but I will see what the ground is and what the weather forecast does.

“I won’t run him on quick ground at Newcastle. If the ground is good to soft at Newbury, I will probably run him there. Without looking, it is a job to say. But at this point in time, I would say he is more likely to go to Newbury than Newcastle.”

Nicholls is looking forward to another big weekend, with bet365 Gold Cup beaten favourite Enrilo set to make his seasonal reappearance in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase.

Nicholls said: “Enrilo definitely runs in the Ladbrokes Trophy. He is in good form and this is a good starting point, but we have taken the decision not to declare Next Destination.”

Nicky Henderson with Epatante at Seven Barrows
Nicky Henderson with Epatante at Seven Barrows (David Davies/PA)

A total of seven horses stood their ground for Newcastle at the confirmation stage, headed by Epatante.

Winner of the 2020 Champion Hurdle, the Nicky Henderson-trained mare made her reappearance in the Gosforth Park feature 12 months ago, recording a stylish success over Sceau Royal.

The Alan King-trained Sceau Royal was last seen winning the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton and could reoppose.

Evan Williams’ Silver Streak was unceremoniously carried out by Not So Sleepy last year, but enjoyed a significant change in fortunes when subsequently beating Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Silver Streak and the Hughie Morrison-trained Not So Sleepy are in the field once again.

Elite Hurdle third Belfast Banter (Peter Fahey) is in line to renew rivalry with Sceau Royal, with Voix Du Reve (Iain Jardine) completing the list.

Epatante heads Fighting Fifth septet

Epatante will face a maximum of six rivals when she defends her Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle crown at Newcastle on Saturday.

Winner of the 2020 Champion Hurdle, the Nicky Henderson-trained mare made her reappearance in the Gosforth Park feature 12 months ago, recording a stylish success over Sceau Royal.

The Alan King-trained Sceau Royal was last seen winning the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton and could reoppose.

Evan Williams’ Silver Streak was unceremoniously carried out by Not So Sleepy last year, but enjoyed a significant change in fortunes when subsequently beating Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Silver Streak and the Hughie Morrison-trained Not So Sleepy are in the field once again, and plenty of attention will surround Paul Nicholls’ Monmiral. The latter was a Grade One winner as a novice at the Aintree Grand National meeting and is co-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Elite Hurdle third Belfast Banter (Peter Fahey) is in line to renew rivalry with Sceau Royal, with Voix Du Reve (Iain Jardine) completing the list at the confirmation stage.

Ground puts Fighting Fifth off the agenda for Metier

The lack of rain is causing havoc for many trainers and among those is Harry Fry, who will not be declaring exciting prospect Metier for Saturday’s Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

The five-year-old rattled up a hat-trick of victories from four runs last season, which included a 12-length heavy-ground victory in the Grade One Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown.

Ranging between 10-1 and 16-1 in the ante-post market for the two-mile feature at the Gosforth Park track, Metier will not be making the journey north.

Fry said: “Metier won’t be going to the Fighting Fifth, because he will not have the ground he prefers.

“There are plenty of good races for him between now and Christmas and we are looking forward to seeing how far he can climb the ladder. He is only five and, of course, we will find out sooner rather than later if he is a handicapper or a graded hurdler.

“He is already a Grade One winner and he will be contesting graded races, but he has to go out and prove it off a mark of 144 and earn the right. We are very much looking forward to seeing if he can, but we are being held up by the ground.”

The same may well apply to the stable’s Boothill, who could have to wait for his chasing debut.

Third in a well-contested Listed handicap hurdle at Ascot last month, Fry is keen to send the six-year-old son of Presenting novice chasing and he holds an entry at Newbury on Friday.

Fry admitted: “We want to start Boothill over fences on Friday at Newbury. We think he is very talented horse, but again we will have to have a watching brief because the ground may come up too quick for him.”

In contrast, Evan Williams, who gained a welcome Grade Three success when Dans Le Vent landed the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday, is praying the dry spell continues for Silver Streak.

Last season’s Kempton Christmas Hurdle winner was runner-up to Sceau Royal at the same track on his seasonal reappearance and is on course for the Fighting Fifth.

Williams said: “Unlike some, we are hoping the ground stays as dry as it is. The better the ground, the better it will be for him.

“Silver Streak is in good form and has been working well. It will be a tough race, but he will take his chance if the rain stays away.

“It was good to have a nice winner on Saturday and if Dans Le Vent never wins another race, he will still have done his job. He’s come out of that well, but we have no plans for him yet.”

Newcastle ground key to Sceau Royal’s Fighting Fifth bid

Alan King is likely to send Sceau Royal for the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday week as long as the ground is suitable.

The Barbury Castle trainer is keen to let him take his chance as the nine-year-old has been in fine form since winning the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton for a record third time earlier this month.

“He’s very well. Obviously, if the weather holds we will seriously look at the Fighting Fifth next weekend,” said King.

“He’s in a good place. I want to go to Newcastle but I wouldn’t go if it was heavy. With this English weather you just don’t know what you’re going to get. If the weather holds, he will probably head to Newcastle.”

King expects Tritonic to be all the better for his fifth place in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday and is looking to run him in the Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Ascot on December 18.

“He ran a good race and I think will be much sharper for it – the experience in a big field. He’ll probably go to Ascot the weekend before Christmas,” he said.

“That is what I’m thinking of at the moment.”

Graham has Rehearsal Chase on the cards for Aye Right

Aye Right is to go for the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle on November 27, after connections ruled out another crack at the Ladbrokes Trophy on the same day.

The eight-year-old was runner-up in the Newbury feature last season, but trainer Harriet Graham is keeping him closer to home this time.

She also wants to give him a lighter campaign to 2020-21 when he ran seven times and was placed in three other top staying chases – the Charlie Hall, the Sky Bet Chase and the Ultima Handicap – without getting his head in front.

“We took him out at Newbury because we decided we’d go to Newcastle instead for the Rehearsal Chase,” said the Jedburgh handler.

“He ran incredibly well in the Ladbrokes last year, but there will probably be 24 runners, with a lot coming over from Ireland, and we thought we’d stay local and go for the Rehearsal.

“He’s fine. We just decided we’re not going to over-race him. We went once too often last time and didn’t go to Wetherby (for this season’s Charlie Hall) which had been on our plan.

“We’ll go for the Rehearsal and see how we go from there.”

Epatante tops 21 in contention for Fighting Fifth Hurdle

Last year’s winner Epatante is among 21 entries for the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on November 27.

Nicky Henderson’s mare claimed an effortless victory in the Grade One affair last year, on what was her first run since winning the Champion Hurdle, but she failed to win again in three subsequent starts.

Beaten by Silver Streak in the Christmas Hurdle, she was also no match for Honeysuckle at Cheltenham in March or at Punchestown.

Paul Nicholls has repeatedly stated he is keen to run Monmiral in the race, with the four-year-old having gone unbeaten in four outings last term, including in a Grade One at the Grand National meeting.

There is a very strong Irish presence among the entries, with Gordon Elliott able to chose from Zanahiyr, impressive Naas winner Teahupoo and Aintree Hurdle hero Abacadabras.

County Hurdle winner Belfast Banter has put in by Peter Fahey with Darasso, successful in the Lismullen Hurdle on Sunday, also a contender.

Alan King’s Sceau Royal was no match for Epatante 12 months ago but has looked better than ever this season in winning at Kempton and Wincanton and could take her on again.

Soaring Glory won the Betfair Hurdle last season and returned to action with a win at Ascot recently.

While he could step up in class, trainer Jonjo O’Neill is currently leaning towards Newbury the same weekend.

Soaring Glory (left) has the option of Newcastle but could head to Newbury on the same day
Soaring Glory (left) has the option of Newcastle but could head to Newbury on the same day (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

O’Neill said: “I’ve just put him in the Fighting Fifth but he’ll probably go to the Gerry Feilden on the same day instead.

“He’s a horse we’ve always liked and hopefully we can keep him on a clear path.

“He was entitled to do what he did at Ascot. Halfway down the back Tom (Scudamore) was just niggling away at him, but that’s the kind of horse he is.

“When he turned in he came back on the bridle and after that it was fairly straightforward.”

Song For Someone won the International Hurdle last season and could start off at Newcastle with For Pleasure, a faller on his chasing debut, Metier, Adagio, Not So Sleepy, Call Me Lord, Teqany, Silver Streak, Voix Du Reve, Molly Ollys Wishes and 2019 winner Cornerstone Lad also entered.

Betfair spokesman Barry Orr said: “Both numerically and strength of depth, this is the strongest set of entries since we began sponsoring the race in 2019.

“The 2020 winner, Epatante, is set to defend her crown but the Paul Nicholls-trained, Monmiral, will be looking to plant a flag for the younger generation and there is very little between them at 9-4 and 5-2 respectively.

“It’s great to see five Irish entries and at 6-1 Abacadabras is the shortest in the betting. Hopefully a couple of them will show up on the day as there hasn’t been an Irish winner since Go Native in 2009.”