Champion Hurdle hero Rock On Ruby up for glory at the Fighting Fifth
LAST season's Champion Hurdle hero Rock On Ruby is among field of six possibles for the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday following the confirmation stage.
The seven-year-old will bid to give rookie trainer Harry Fry a major success in his first season with a licence.
Fry was assistant to the horse's former handler Paul Nicholls and was responsible for Rock On Ruby when the horse took the Cheltenham crown.
Another Festival victor set for Newcastle is Countrywide Flame, winner of the Triumph Hurdle for North Yorkshire trainer John Quinn.
Trainer Donald McCain and jockey Jason Maguire have taken this prestigious prize for the last two years with Peddlers Cross and Overturn.
They are relying upon Cinders And Ashes giving them a notable hat-trick.
The five-year-old was last seen winning the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Festival from Nicky Henderson's Darlan and the Charles Byrnes-trained Trifolium.
They, too, have been left in the Fighting Fifth.
Completing the sextet is Bothy, who has been supplemented by Brian Ellison following his fine effort to take fourth place behind Olofi in the Racing Post Hurdle at Cheltenham earlier this month.
"He's just a brilliant horse," said the North Yorkshire handler.
"I could have run him again a couple of days later, he's come out of it in great form.
"I just love the horse to bits."
Henderson admits the wet weather than is battering the country is giving him real cause for concern.
The situation at Newcastle appears particularly bad and the trainer admits Darlan may not make the journey to the North East if the meeting does go ahead.
Henderson also raised the possibility of the Fighting Fifth being switched to a different racecourse, as it was when his Punjabi won the race at Wetherby in 2008 and when Peddlers Cross was victorious at Newbury in 2010.
Henderson said: "It's getting on the verge of depressing, let alone worrying.
"Newcastle is under threat for the Fighting Fifth. It sounds pretty dangerous. They have re-routed the Fighting Fifth in the past.
"If Newcastle was on you'd have to wonder if we'd want to be going there anyway, but if they switched it to Newbury is that going to be heavy as well?"