Flame lights up Fighting fifth
Countrywide Flame captured the scalp of Cinders And Ashes in impressive fashion to land the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
The two Cheltenham Festival winners had the race to themselves over the last two flights, and it was the Triumph Hurdle hero who came out on top.
Bothy held a narrow lead from Trifolium, with Countrywide Flame third and Cinders And Ashes last of the four runners through the early stages.
Trifolium was the first beat, as was Bothy soon afterwards, and Denis O'Regan always looked confident on the John Quinn-trained winner.
The 11-4 chance pulled 12 lengths clear of 10-11 favourite Cinders And Ashes to stake an early claim for the Champion Hurdle.
Quinn said: "This year he has improved a stone on the Flat and he had to improve a stone over hurdles to be a real Champion Hurdle horse. Looking at that you'd say he has improved.
"It was great. I enjoyed it immensely, especially when he jumped the last.
"There's the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and I've also put him in the Istabraq Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 29. That's a possibility.
"Then he'll have another run, then he'll go for the Champion Hurdle.
"He's gone on every ground and he's looked a good horse on every ground.
"Every trainer needs a good horse and I'm glad for the yard."
O'Regan said: "It's great to ride him. I haven't had a Grade One winner for quite a while.
"Dougie (Costello) normally rides him but he's gone to Newbury for the Hennessy. I've seen Dougie ride this horse brilliantly.
"He told me everything about the horse the other day, how he jumps and how he settles.
"Dougie told me how to ride him and he's such a lovely horse. I'm so pleased I was on him today, but he's Dougie's ride.
"He was very impressive today and he's a serious horse. He wouldn't be without a chance in the Champion Hurdle."