What's happening at Newcastle

Inside Track

Thu, Nov 24, 2016

November has been the busiest month of the year at Newcastle Racecourse with eleven fixtures scheduled; seven of which have already taken place. In addition to regular Flat racing on our All-Weather surface, the month has heralded the return of National Hunt racing at Gosforth Park and the build up-to the prestigious Stan Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle on November 26.

First run in 1969, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle has a well-established history of bringing champion racehorses from all over the UK & Ireland to Newcastle to compete for the current £120,000 prize. The 2 Mile Grade 1 Hurdle is seen as a key stepping stone on the Road to Cheltenham, which culminates in March with the blue riband of hurdling; the Stan Champion Hurdle.

The Fighting Fifth bears reference to the nickname of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (The Fighting Fifth Battalion), with the race sporting an impressive roll call of past winners. These include Comedy of Errors (1972-1974) Night Nurse (1975), Birds Nest (1976,1977 & 1979) Sea Pigeon (1978 & 1980), Ekbalco (1981), Floyd (1987 & 1988), Kribensis (1989), Beech Road (1990), Dato Star (1998 & 1989), Harchibald (2004 & 2007), Overturn (2011) and most recently Identity Thief (2015).

As a consequence, the names of many of horse racing’s most illustrious trainers are forever linked with the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. These names include Fulke Walwyn, Fred Rimmell, Peter Easterby, Monica Dickinson, David Elsworth, Toby Balding, Mary Reveley, Sir Michael Stoute, Mark Johnston, Malcolm Jefferson, Nicky Henderson, Jonjo O’Neill, Noel Meade, Donald McCain and the recently passed away and missed Denys Smith.

Joining Newcastle Racecourse as Clerk of the Course in 2000, I recall Barton landing the Fighting Fifth Hurdle that year in the colours of then racecourse Chairman Sir Stanley Clarke. With the 2008 and 2010 renewal’s switched to Wetherby and Newbury respectively because of adverse weather, I’ve presided over a further fourteen Fighting Fifth Hurdles at Gosforth Park. Whilst we all have our own unique and vivid memories of such a special race, the rapturous reception received from a vocal Irish contingent by the talented Harchibald and Paul Carberry in 2004 will live long in the memory. As will the relative distain with which the pair showed towards both Al Eile and Katchit when following up in simply breath-taking style in 2007.

In addition to the Stan Fighting Fifth Hurdle, the card on November 26 also features the £80,000, Class 1 Listed 3 Mile At The Races Rehearsal Chase, and the £20,000, Class 2, 2 Mile 6 Furlongs Weatherby’s Bank ‘ The French Furze’ Novices Hurdle.

Advance online tickets for what promises to be a thrilling and most informative afternoon of top-class National Hunt racing are available at:

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James Armstrong