CORNERSTONE LAD DECLARED TO DEFEND HIS FIGHTING FIFTH CROWN.
Looking at this years renewal of the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle, Cornerstone Lad appears to have a very similar task as to last year in terms of the quality opposition he has to overcome. The one big difference this year is the going, last year he won the race in heavy ground, and followed up at Haydock in January, with (possibly) an even better third placing, the going at the time of writing is good. Cornerstone Lad is very capable on that surface, but loses the advantage of making it more of a stamina test, enabling the opposition to go through their gears easier.
The opposition includes last seasons Champion Hurdler Epatante who is officially rated 162, which is 3lb in advance of Cornerstone Lad, she would be the favourite to win the race even without the aid of the 7lb sex allowance she receives.
Silver Streak is an excellent form guide, as he nearly always runs his race. He was third in the 2019 Champion Hurdle, beaten 15 and a half lengths, and in this years race he was 12 lengths behind Epatante. Cornerstone lad beat him by three and a quarter lengths in last years Fighting Fifth, and he looked as good as ever when winning at Kempton by six and a half lengths last month.
Sceau Royal has returned to hurdles this season after two years of chasing at a very similar high class level, including chasing home Altior on four occasions, including a close third in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, he was forth in the Fighting Fifth back in 2016 to Irving. A line through Ballyandy, on Sceau Royal's most recent run would suggest that Cornerstone Lad under the right conditions would have his beating.
Ribble Valley who was a top novice last season looked as if he is worth a go at this level when winning with ease at Carlisle last month, following wind surgery, but this is a major hike in class.
The other two runners are the ex Irish trained Voix Du Reve who was a Grade 1 winner at Fairyhouse in April 2019, but was tailed off in handicap company at Aintree last month, on his first appearance for his new yard.The field is completed by Not So Sleepy who is a very useful handicapper on his day, and was forth on the flat recently in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket from a mark of 98.