Guide to the Fighting Fifth Hurdle: One of the country’s top jump races, the Grade 1 Unibet Fighting Fifth Hurdle is staged on 2nd December 2017 at Newcastle Racecourse.
History of the Race
The race’s title refers to the ‘Fighting Fifth’, the nickname of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (formerly known as the 5th Regiment of Foot). In the year before the race’s launch, the regiment was amalgamated with three others to form the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
The inaugural running of the race in 1969 was won by Mugatpura. The first horse to really make the race his own, however, was Comedy of Errors, who won the Fighting Fifth three years running in 1972, 1973 and 1974. This star of Fred Rimell’s cemented the race’s potential for producing Cheltenham Festival winners by going on to win the 1973 and 1975 Champion Hurdles, and become one of the greatest hurdlers in living memory.
Recent winners of the Fighting Fifth include My Tent Or Yours (2013), Irving (2014), Identity Thief (2015) and Irving again in 2016.
The Triple Crown
The Fighting Fifth is the first race in the the Triple Crown of Hurdling – to win the Triple Crown a horse must win these three races in one season:
- The Fighting Fifth Hurdle – run at Newcastle (High Gosforth Park).
- The Christmas Hurdle – run at Kempton Park
- The Champion Hurdle – run at Cheltenham (during the Cheltenham Festival).
The only horse to date to have won all three races was Kribensis in 1989/90, trained by Sir Michael Stoute.
Between 2006 and 2010, a £1,000,000 bonus – the richest in hurdling history – was offered for any horse that won the Triple Crown (of Hurdling). The prize was sponsored by World Bet Exchange (WBX) to promote its launch.
No horse managed to claim the WBX bonus, only Punjabi (in 2008/9) and Go Native (in 2009/10) came close, each winning two of the three races.
Since then, My Tent Or Yours (2013/14) and Faugheen (2014/15) have each won two of the races also.
The Race Today
The Fighting Fifth Hurdle was formerly classed at Grade 2 level, and was promoted to Grade 1 status in 2004. It is run over two miles, for horses aged four years or older. It is one of the early season Champion Hurdle trials and the first top-grade hurdle race of the British National Hunt season – usually attracting a strong field.
The Fighting Fifth is also the first leg in the ‘Road to Cheltenham’ series of races which includes the International Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock, and culminates in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
It usually takes place at the end of November but in 2017 it will be run on 2nd December.
So, will Irving be back for a crack at a third victory in the Fighting Fifth? Will the winner go on to Triple Crown success?
The iconic Unibet Fighting Fifth features amongst an afternoon of fantastic jump racing at High Gosforth Park, which also includes the Listed At The Races Rehearsal Chase, which in 2016 saw top jumpers Otago Trail, Bristol De Mai and Definitely Red finish first to third respectively.
The Chelsea vs Newcastle United match will be live on selected screens around the racecourse.