Timeform bring you their comprehensive runner-by-runner guide to Saturday's Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and pick out their 1-2-3.
"...has only been beaten once in six starts over hurdles..."
Timeform on Epatante
Fighting Fifth Hurdle
Newcastle, Saturday 14:05
Live on ITV Racing
1. Cornerstone Lad (Micky Hammond/ Billy Garritty)
Tough and genuine sort who caused a 16/1 shock when making all to beat the odds-on Buveur d'Air by a short head in this race last year. Close third in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock next time but pulled up in the Champion Hurdle itself. Comes here like last year after a recent win on the Flat and should give it another good shot.
2. Not So Sleepy (Hughie Morrison/ Paddy Brennan)
Made into a useful hurdler last term, winning two handicaps at Ascot before Christmas, including the Betfair Exchange Trophy. Had excuses on both subsequent outings, though was eventually pulled up in the Champion Hurdle after racing handily. Has been in good form on the Flat, finishing fourth for the second year running in the Cesarewitch last time.
3. Ribble Valley (Nicky Richards/ Brian Hughes)
His only two defeats have come when venturing south but he was an easy winner of novice hurdles at Hexham and Wetherby last season and a four-runner intermediate event at Carlisle last month after a wind op. This is much his stiffest test to date here, but no surprise if he improves further.
4. Sceau Royal (Alan King/ Daryl Jacob)
High-class chaser in recent seasons but has been put back over hurdles to good effect this autumn, winning the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las and the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton. The obvious one to profit if Epatante isn't near the top of her game for her return.
5. Silver Streak (Evan Williams/ Tom O'Brien)
Finished just over three lengths third to Cornerstone Lad in this last year, having won a listed event at Kempton beforehand, and he was as good as ever when winning the same race again last month. Runner-up to Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle and finished further behind her in the Champion Hurdle, however, so looks up against it.
6. Voix du Reve (Iain Jardine/ Conor O'Farrell)
One-time smart hurdler/chaser for Willie Mullins but was mostly out of form last term. Was beaten a long way in the end when 50/1 for his stable debut/reappearance in a handicap at Aintree last month.
7. Epatante (Nicky Henderson/ Aidan Coleman)
Has only been beaten once in six starts over hurdles, accounting for Silver Streak by five lengths in the Christmas Hurdle before readily winning the Champion Hurdle when last seen. Stands out on form for a stable that have won this five times before, though last year wasn't the first time they've had a hot favourite overturned here. Sets a lofty standard.
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Timeform's Analyst Verdict:
Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante should be hard to beat after a gallop at Newbury last week. The race-fit and in-form Sceau Royal is the obvious one to take advantage should Nicky Henderson's brilliant mare not be on her game. The unexposed Ribble Valley is an interesting outsider.
2. Sceau Royal
3. Ribble Valley