Fighting Fifth Hurdle 2021 Tips: Epatante to show her class at Newcastle

Fighting Fifth Hurdle Tips: Check out our best bet for the Newbury Grade 1.
Fighting Fifth Hurdle Tips: Check out our best bet for the Newbury Grade 1.

Six horses go to post for the 2021 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, and our man Billy Grimshaw previews the race here, and picks out his best bet for the Grade 1 feature at the north east venue...

This year's running of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle would have lost some of its appeal if Monmiral had defected and so it is great to see Paul Nicholls’ exciting five-year-old declared after some doubts through the week. It should be an intriguing contest with Epatante on a retrieval mission after last season’s struggles facing off with the unknown quantity that is Monmiral in open company and some other old stagers. 

As the 2020 Champion Hurdle winner, EPATANTE was as short as 5/4 in some places to repeat that success after her fiendishly impressive win in this race last season. If she is in anywhere near as devastating form on Saturday this shouldn't be much of a contest in truth, but the wheels seemed to come off after her trip up North in 2020. On her next start she was comfortably beaten at odds of 1/5 by another runner in the Fighting Fifth field, Silver Streak in the Christmas Hurdle. Following that disappointment, she has looked nowhere near her imperious best, with a lacklustre run in the Champion Hurdle of 2021 followed by being put firmly in her place once again by Honeysuckle when travelling over to Punchestown at the end of last season. Her reappearance here will tell us much about her chances of regaining her Cheltenham crown.

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The aforementioned Silver Streak is one of a couple of rivals to Epatante who will be praying rain stays away from the Tyneside track. He and Sceau Royal have some solid form on a sounder surface and would appreciate the ground staying good. Silver Streak was desperately unlucky in this race last year, being taken out at the first flight by another one of today's field Not So Sleepy. The likeable front-running grey is a model of consistency for Evan WIlliams, but it is hard to fancy him to beat a peak-form Epatante. The one expected to give the mare the most to think about is Sceau Royal, another consistent performer who excels over hurdles and fences at the minimum trip and has looked better than ever this year.

Of course, nothing is assured in horse racing but if past performances are anything to go by, Silver Streak will try to take the race away from his rivals from the front. Epatante should have the gears to go past him providing she is on a going day and it is expected Sceau Royal will be ridden to pick up the pieces and mount a late challenge to Nicky Henderson's charge. Just over a month ago Sceau Royal got the better of Silver Streak at Kempton and it is anticipated he can do so again.

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Notoriously, horses venturing into open company for the first time after their juvenile season struggle with the intensity of racing their older counterparts and despite his obvious talent Monmiral is too short in the betting for a race of this nature.

Not So Sleepy will hope to make it further than the first obstacle unlike last year but does not have the necessary class to win here, whereas rank outsider Voix Du Reve is a law unto himself and even on his best day could be discounted in a contest this hot. 

At just a shade above even money, Epatante rates a fair bet to retain her Fighting Fifth crown and she will hopefully show some of the zest of old and emerge as a credible rival to Honeysuckle in a shallow looking division this season.

Fighting Fifth Hurdle
Epatante silk


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