2.05 Newcastle: Fighting Fifth Hurdle, 2m½f
Feels odds throwing my hat into the ring at a race at Newcastle that isn’t run on the sand…. as much as I love watching the spectacle that is jump racing, betting wise it’s no good to me – at least on a day to day basis.
Today isn’t an ordinary day, though. It’s the Fighting Fifth, the first huge Grade 1 of the season that gets the pulls raising. All the hot Champion Hurdle contenders are here – an early-season clash that’ll give us an indication if Samcro can justify the hype, after two runs that saw him a faller and then a beaten odds-on favourite.
I think, on that evidence, given the short price today again, I’m certainly inclined to take him on. Sure, the 6-year-old will come on for his recent run, but somehow that performance lacked the usual zest you would associate with Samcro, and looked more concerning to my eyes than simply being a pleasing pipe opener yielding in plenty of improvement. We shall see….
There is no doubt Buveur D’air is the one they all have to beat. He’s the defending champion in both the Champion- and the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. He’s the one who ran to the highest time speed rating of all of these, by a country mile.
Granted, this is an important early-season target, I bet Buveur D’air will not be fully wound up today. A Champion Hurdle hat-trick is the main objective. March is a long way from here.
I’ also intrigued by the “routine wind op” he has undergone during the summer. Is there really such thing as a “routine operation”? Possibly. I don’t know enough about it. Nonetheless, it puts enough doubts in my mind, compared with the bigger fish to fry for Buveur D’air later the season, to oppose him at short odds.
The obvious alternative is Summerville Boy. The reigning Supreme champ, also on his seasonal debut, obviously – with his own question marks. Around trip – too sharp? Ground – not soft enough? Talent – good enough?
He was an impressive winner at the Festival for obvious reasons, but the fact he seems to have issues with concentration, in a race that’ll likely be about speed and accurate jumping, whereas he strikes me more like a grinder, is a big question mark. Will he be ready for today? I bet so! If you want to gauge how Summerville Boy measures up against the top guns you got to be ready for the fight today.
Connections are pretty bullish. On the evidence on form and ratings he has plenty to find to Buveur D’air, but not a lot to Samcro – in fact his all-time best TS is a pound better than Samcro’s. Whether that’s of significance, is up for debate. Certainly, on evidence, the six-year-old has plenty scope for improvement, if he gets his act together in the later stages of the race.
Given my doubts about pretty much any of the main principles in the race, and not having a lot of confidence in the other two in the field, at given prices Summerville Boy looks a superb bet.
I feel this race is more important for him than for the favourite. I believe, at this stage, he’s likely as good as Samcro. There are plenty of positives vibes around him as well – so I allow myself a crack at this hugely exciting renewal of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle!
10pts win – Summerville Boy @ 6/1 MB
5.15 Wolverhampton: Novice Stakes, 5f
Vee Man Ten looks a decent colt after showing promise in two starts on turf earlier this year. He looked like winning on debut at Beverly but was squeezed out eventually to finish third while only ridden hands and heels – this form looks strong judged through the winner in particular, but also the runner-up.
He blasted out of the gates at Haydock less than two weeks later, setting a brutal pace that wasn’t sustainable, particularly over 6 furlongs. However, the early speed he showed was impressive.
Now the bit wiser, first time on the All-Weather and dropping to 5f, it could be third time lucky. On pedigree this should suit, his sire has a fine record on the sand over the minimum trip, particularly with juveniles.
Vee Man Ten has a hood fitted for the first time, which may not be a disadvantage, a good draw and jockey KT O’Neill making his way here for this one ride only – strong chance.
10pts win – Vee Man Ten @ 4/1 Sky