Cornerstone Lad remains on course to defend his Fighting Fifth crown at 2.05.pm on Saturday at Newcastle.
First of all we send our best wishes and commiserations to Henry Brooke who is out injured until at least March. He gave the horse a great front running ride to win the race last year, and will be substituted by the conditional jockey Billy Garritty. Billy has previously won on the horse on four occasions, three times over jumps, and once, last time out on the flat, so he knows Cornerstone Lad very well.It is very unusual, and also a great honour for a conditional to be given a ride in the highest grade, as they cannot use their claim, but of course Billy is good enough to ride against his peers off levels. It is also to the credit of Cornerstone Lad's connections to stand by Billy.
We are only at the five day stage, but it looks as if this years renewal will be at lease on a par with last year. Nicky Henderson has the current Champion Hurdler Epatante entered, and if she runs her race, it is unlikely any horse in training currently could give her 7lb over hurdles.Silver Streak who was third last year, looks as good as ever after winning at Kempton last month, and should provide a good guide to the form. The Alan King yard may run Sceau Royal who is a grade 1 winner over fences, and since returning to hurdles this season, looks well up to this level. Another one to note is the Nicky Richards trained Ribble Valley who after wind surgery returned with an impressive win at Carlisle last month, but he does have to prove it at this level.
The Fighting Fifth Hurdle was first run in 1969 and here is the role of honour.
1969 Mugatpura 6 Willie Robinson Fulke Walwyn 1970 Inishmaan 4 Terry Biddlecombe Fred Rimell 1971 Dondieu 6 Brian Fletcher Denys Smith 1972 Comedy of Errors 5 Bill Smith Fred Rimell 1973 Comedy of Errors 6 Bill Smith Fred Rimell 1974 Comedy of Errors 7 Ken White Fred Rimell 1975 Night Nurse 4 Paddy Broderick Peter Easterby 1976 Birds Nest 6 Steve Knight Bob Turnell 1977 Birds Nest 7 Andrew Turnell Bob Turnell 1978 Sea Pigeon 8 Ian Watkinson Peter Easterby 1979 Birds Nest 9 Andrew Turnell Bob Turnell 1980 Sea Pigeon [a] 10 Alan Brown Peter Easterby 1981 Ekbalco 5 David Goulding Roger Fisher 1982 Donegal Prince 6 Phil Tuck Paul Kelleway 1983 Gaye Brief 6 Sam Morshead Mercy Rimell 1984 Browne's Gazette 6 Dermot Browne Monica Dickinson 1985 Out of the Gloom 4 Jonjo O'Neill Reg Hollinshead 1986 Tom Sharp 6 S. J. O'Neill Walter Wharton 1987 Floyd 7 Colin Brown David Elsworth 1988 Floyd 8 Simon Sherwood David Elsworth 1989 Kribensis 5 Mark Dwyer Michael Stoute 1990 Beech Road 8 Richard Guest Toby Balding 1991 Royal Derbi 6 Chris Grant Neville Callaghan 1992 Halkopous 6 Steve Smith Eccles Mark Tompkins no race 1993 [b] 1994 Batabanoo 5 Peter Niven Mary Reveley 1995 Padre Mio 7 Richard Guest Charlie Brooks 1996 Space Trucker 5 John Shortt Jessica Harrington 1997 Star Rage 7 Dean Gallagher Mark Johnston 1998 Dato Star 7 Lorcan Wyer Malcolm Jefferson 1999 Dato Star 8 Lorcan Wyer Malcolm Jefferson 2000 Barton 7 Tony Dobbin Tim Easterby 2001 Landing Light 6 John Kavanagh Nicky Henderson 2002 Intersky Falcon 5 Liam Cooper Jonjo O'Neill 2003 The French Furze 9 Brian Harding Nicky Richards 2004 Harchibald 5 Paul Carberry Noel Meade 2005 Arcalis 5 Tony Dobbin Howard Johnson 2006 Straw Bear 5 Tony McCoy Nick Gifford 2007 Harchibald 8 Paul Carberry Noel Meade 2008 Punjabi [c] 5 Barry Geraghty Nicky Henderson 2009 Go Native 6 Davy Condon Noel Meade 2010 Peddlers Cross [d] 5 Jason Maguire Donald McCain, Jr. 2011 Overturn 7 Jason Maguire Donald McCain, Jr. 2012 Countrywide Flame 4 Denis O'Regan John Quinn 2013 My Tent Or Yours 6 Tony McCoy Nicky Henderson 2014 Irving 6 Nick Scholfield Paul Nicholls 2015 Identity Thief 5 Bryan Cooper Henry De Bromhead 2016 Irving 8 Harry Cobden Paul Nicholls 2017 Buveur d'Air 6 Barry Geraghty Nicky Henderson 2018 Buveur d'Air 7 Barry Geraghty Nicky Henderson 2019 Cornerstone Lad 5 Henry Brooke Micky Hammond