sport

Ashes faces three at Newcastle

Cinders And Ashes heads a field of just four for the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.

Donald McCain, trainer of Supreme Novices' Hurdle hero Cinders And Ashes, is bidding for a third successive victory in the Group One contest following Peddlers Cross in 2010 and Overturn 12 months ago.

The Charles Byrnes-trained Trifolium, the mount of Andrew Lynch, was just a length and a half behind Cinders and Ashes when third at Cheltenham and reopposes for Ireland.

John Quinn's Triumph Hurdle winner Countrywide Flame reverts to hurdles after having been narrowly denied in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket last month. He will be ridden by Denis O'Regan.

The field is completed by Brian Ellison's consistent handicapper Bothy, who was supplemented for the race on Monday.

Set to be run on very testing ground, the Grade One contest has been hit by the defections of Darlan and Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby.

Harry Fry, trainer of Rock On Ruby, said in a statement: "The plan was always to take the horse to Newcastle, provided the going wasn't too soft.

"Unfortunately after the dreadful weather around the country the ground is bound to be very testing on Saturday.

"To run him first time on this type of going is not ideal.

"We are looking at the bigger picture because the aim for Rock On Ruby all season is to try to win the Champion Hurdle again in March.

"And we think he has a decent chance of doing that.

"So we will give the Fighting Fifth a miss and wait instead for Cheltenham a fortnight later."

Echoing similar ground concerns, Darlan's trainer Nicky Henderson said: "We ummed and aahed about it for a long time, but the decision was taken because of the ground."