Newcastle preview: Fighting Fifth Hurdle (14.05)
David Metcalf | November 27, 2015
Top Notch ran a blinder when runner-up on seasonal reappearance and can go one better to land the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle (14.05).
The gelding was a dual winner in France before joining trainer Nicky Henderson and developing into one of the very best juvenile hurdlers of last season.
After winning his first three starts for Henderson in impressive fashion, the four-year-old posted a cracking effort to finish second of 16 to stable companion Peace And Co in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Top Notch made smooth headway two from home, and after taking up the running at the last kept on strongly to go down fighting by just a neck.
It was a terrific effort against a very exciting prospect, and one which suggested Top Notch needed keeping firmly onside.
Top Notch can get revenge over champion Irving
That view was confirmed when the son of Poliglote finished 1 1/4 length second to Irving on his return to action at Haydock last weekend.
Top Notch travelled powerfully at the head of affairs and looked all over the winner until making a mistake two from home.
To his credit, Top Notch quickly recovered and still led at the last but he was then unable to fend of Irving in the closing stages as lack of race fitness took its toll.
It was an excellent effort against a race-fit rival, and with that run under his belt I fancy Top Notch to gain his revenge on the winner.
Irving won the race 12 months ago and looks sure to make a bold bid to retain his crown having bounced right back to his best to win his first two starts of the campaign.
However, this will be the third race in 21 days for the Paul Nicholls trained seven-year-old and may well come too quickly as he had a very hard race at Haydock when beating Top Notch.
Wicklow Brave a big danger
A bigger danger to the selection could be Irish raider Wicklow Brave who comes into the contest on the back of a career-best performance.
The Willie Mullins trained six-year-old stayed on strongly to finish a 1 3/4 length third to stable companion Nichols Canyon in a Grade 1 contest at Punchestown, in which last year’s Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen came second.
That is very strong form, and although Wicklow Brave may well have been flattered to finish as close there is little doubt that he is a very useful performer who is clearly on an upward curve.
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Coral’s top tip: Top Notch ran a blinder on reappearance and looks decent value to land the spoils. Wicklow Brave is feared most.