Wicklow Brave and Identity Thief supplemented for Fighting Fifth

Wicklow Brave and Identity Thief have been supplemented for the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at the confirmation stage.

The inclusion of the Irish-trained pair takes the number of possible runners for the Grade One feature at Newcastle on Saturday to 11.

Identity Thief is a lightly-raced five-year-old from Henry de Bromhead’s stable and carries the Gigginstown House Stud colours.

He showed he was a progressive when winning the Grade Two WKD Hurdle at Down Royal last month on his first run since April.

Wicklow Brave has been kept on the go all year by Willie Mullins, both on the Flat and over jumps, but shows no signs of slowing down and was a fine third behind stablemate Nichols Canyon in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown Hurdle earlier this month.

Mullins has also left in Arctic Fire, who made a winning reappearance in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan two weeks ago.

Nicky Henderson is keeping his options open by confirming Hargam, Sign Of A Victory and Top Notch.

The latter ran for the first time since finishing second to stablemate Peace And Co in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham when giving Irving a good run for his money at Haydock on Saturday.

“Top Notch ran really well at Haydock at the weekend. We were very pleased with him,” said the Seven Barrows trainer. I’ve left him in the Fighting Fifth as it if came up very soft, we would think about having a go.

“I’ve also got Hargam and Sign Of A Victory in there so anything could happen at this stage.

“If he (Top Notch) doesn’t go to Newcastle, we will probably step him up a bit further. Top Notch wouldn’t run unless it came up very soft.”

Paul Nicholls could run Irving for the third time this month as he also landed the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

John Ferguson is doubly-represented with Commissioned and Purple Bay with Robert Stephens’ Beltor and the Karl Burke-trained Intense Tango completing the list.

Beltor had trainer Stephens purring when emphatically winning the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton last season and the four-year-old remains on course for a tilt at the Grade One prize this weekend.

He struggled to show his best form in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but the son of Authorized pulled five lengths clear of subsequent Grade One winner All Yours at the Surrey track in February and is open to more improvement.

Stephens said: “The plan is to run at Newcastle on Saturday and he’s in good form at home.

“I’d like to think he’s improved again over the summer and we’ll learn a lot in regards to whether we have a genuine Champion Hurdle horse on our hands.”

Meanwhile Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree features among 21 confirmations for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday.

Just 24 hours after he was given the green light to run in the race his half-brother Carruthers won in 2011, Mark Bradstock’s charge warmed up for this year’s renewal with a typically smart jumping display at Sandown earlier this month.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls is gunning for his fourth Hennessy win – a race he also won twice as a jockey – and Saphir Du Rheu stands his ground at the five-day stage.

The Ditcheat maestro last won the Hennessy with dual scorer Denman in 2009, and Saphir Du Rheu, an impressive winner of the Grade One Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree last season, made a pleasing return to action at Carlisle at the beginning of the month.

As well as The Young Master, who was no match for Nicholls’ inmate in Listed company at the Cumbria track, trainer Neil Mulholland has The Druids Nephew firmly on course for a tilt at the historic handicap.

An impressive winner of the Grade Three Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last season, the King’s Theatre gelding has shown a good level of improvement since joining Mulholland’s stable.

The eight-year-old came to grief at the fifth-last when travelling menacingly in the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree on his final start last term and is expected to have come forward for his Wetherby reappearance in the West Yorkshire Hurdle last month.

Mulholland said: “Newbury is still very much the plan and we’re pleased with him following a racecourse gallop at the track last Tuesday.

“He’s in good form at home and I’m happy with him. It looks like we’re in for a dry week and that will only enhance his claims come the weekend.”

Three-time Cheltenham Festival winner and 2013 Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth bounced back to form when successful over hurdles at Aintree earlier this month and adds further intrigue to what is shaping up to be a fine renewal.

Nicky Henderson’s likeable chaser beat First Lieutenant (third) when justifying favouritism in the 2012 running and the pair could renew rivalry with Mouse Morris leaving in his stable stalwart.

Striking chestnut First Lieutenant has not graced the winner’s enclosure since he won the Grade One Betfred Bowl Chase at Aintree in 2013, but the 10-year-old has been unlucky in defeat on more than one occasion since and jumped impeccably when last sighted at the Berkshire venue in this race three years ago.

Morris said: “First Lieutenant will hopefully come over for the Hennessy.”

There is nothing between the Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Coneygree and World Hurdle runner-up Saphir Du Rheu at the head of the market as they share favouritism at 7-2 with Coral.


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