High Profile Absentees in Fighting Fifth

11/29/12 - Thereís little doubt that the racecourse executive at Newcastle and those who bet on racing will have been disappointed but probably not completely surprised to learn that two of the leading candidates for the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at the track on December 1, champion hurdler, Rock on Ruby, and the very smart Darlan, will not be taking their respective chances on account of the anticipated heavy underfoot conditions.

 The absence of two of the leading candidates for the showcase -mile event means that a maximum of four horses will face the starter and feature in the bet365 racing commentaries for that day, and in a reformed ante-post market the Donald McCain-trained Cinders And Ashes, winner of last seasonís Supreme Novicesí Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, is now generally an odds-on 8/11 shot.

Rock On Ruby, who graduated last term for being a smart handicapper to landing the hurdles title in thrilling fashion when outpointing Overturn and the defending champion Hurricane Fly, is a horse who has never enjoyed very testing ground, so while connections had been keen to get a first run of the campaign into him it was always going to be doubtful that he would head north to Gosforth Park after the torrential rain that has plagued the Tyneside area in the last week.

Trainer Harry Fry has indicated that he will now wait until December 15 to give his stable star a first run of the season and will hope to compete in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Darlan, runner-up in the Supreme Novicesí Hurdle before having his moment of glory at Aintree in the Grade 2 Tangle Teaser Top Novices Hurdle, is another class act who prefers top of the ground. His trainer, Nicky Henderson has yet to indicate just where his charge will appear for the first time this campaign, but it will surely be ground dependent.

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