Racing: Bear stakes claim with Fighting chance

The next edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? gets under way at Newcastle on Saturday. So, in the spirit of the thing, it's fastest-finger time. Put these military engagements in chronological order, earliest first: Talavera, El Alamein, Lucknow, the Boyne.*

And what have they to do with the running of the first Grade One hurdle battle to be fought on British soil this season? The race is the Fighting Fifth, a name with a proud history not only at High Gosforth Park but in the surrounding county. The Fifth of Foot was founded in 1674, and in 1872, because of its longstanding links with the area, became known as the Royal Northumberland Regiment. It has, in its original and modern guises (it is now part of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers), conducted itself with distinction in conflicts worldwide, including those named above.

The two-mile contest that bears the soldiers' soubriquet was first run in 1975 when the best of all hurdlers, Night Nurse, was victorious. The first prize then was £3,548. On Saturday it will be nearer £50,000, but with the potential to be worth a cool million.

The Fighting Fifth is the first in a newly coined three-race series; there is a bonus of £1m on offer to any horse who can win on Saturday and follow up in Kempton's Christmas Hurdle and Cheltenham's Champion Hurdle. Only one horse has completed that treble, Kribensis in the 1989-90 campaign.

It is a mirror of the Betfair bonus for chasers, which has brought an undoubted frisson to Kauto Star's King George VI Chase and Gold Cup mission, after his splendid win in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.

The so-called hurdling triple crown is sponsored by the World Bet Exchange, a firm due to launch officially on Saturday with the intention of providing opposition to Betfair, the leading exchange. And entirely to its credit, WBX actively rejected the opportunity to exchange the time-honoured name of the Newcastle feature for a promotional one of their own.

This refreshingly bucks the modern trend, recently manifested in the commercially-prompted renaming of the Bula Hurdle by the Cheltenham executive. One of this sport's strengths is its roots and the assertion by a course official that Bula - a dual champion and one of the six top hurdlers ever - "is a name that has had its time" defies comprehension.

So, who does want to be a millionaire? Weather allowing, the home contenders will be led by Straw Bear, one of last season's best novices. JP McManus's five-year-old, trained by Nick Gifford, will make the journey north from Findon only in the event of the ground easing, but rain, up to 10mm, is forecast.

The lucre - which includes a tremendous £100,000 for the winning horse's lad or lass - is not foremost in Gifford's mind. "It is a fantastic carrot," he said, "and if two horses go to Cheltenham with the chance to win the million it will be very exciting. But if the ground isn't right on Saturday we won't be swayed by it as the horse's welfare comes first. We had this race in mind as the starting point long before the bonus was announced, because at this time of year the ground at Newcastle is usually soft, which he'd ideally want as he has a good round action."

The chestnut, Tony McCoy's mount if he runs, progressed all last term, going down by a neck to Noland in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle after fluffing the last and romping home in the Aintree equivalent by 13 lengths. He ended his season by chasing home Iktitaf at Punchestown.

"That doesn't look so bad now, does it?" said Gifford, "and Iktitaf was the one favoured that day by being fresh and having the ground and run of the race to suit."

Straw Bear spent his summer at McManus's Martinstown Stud in Ireland. "He had a very good holiday," said Gifford, "and came back looking fantastic, stronger and more muscled. He's been pleasing us a lot and he's ready for a run. But he is the one who now has to go out and prove it."

Two of Straw Bear's potential opponents have been removed from the fray. Iktitaf's Noel Meade stablemate Harchibald, winner of the Fighting Fifth two years ago, and Jessica Harrington-trained Macs Joy have minor injuries. "Nothing serious," said Meade yesterday.

* Answer: The Boyne 1690, Talavera 1809, Lucknow 1857, El Alamein 1942.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Tambourine Davis

(Taunton 2.25)

NB: Slick

(Tainton 3.25)

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
News
people
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

Nursery Nurse

£25 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse needed in th...

Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

£21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

£110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape