Punjabi in With Fighting Chance
Sporting Life - 2008-11-27

Punjabi will face seven rivals in the wbx.com "Fighting Fifth" Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday as he looks to strengthen his claims for top honours later in the season, writes Nick Robson.

Nicky Henderson's charge finished third in the Champion Hurdle in March before winning the ACCBank Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.

Punjabi's age group have a good recent record in the race, with Intersky Falcon, Harchibald, Straw Bear and Arcalis having in recent years struck gold as a five-year-old.

The latter, trained by Howard Johnson, is also a former winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and returns after a 582-day lay-off.

The 2007 Champion Hurdle winner Sublimity finished behind Punjabi on the both occasions they met last season and takes his chance at Gosforth Park.

New trainer Robbie Hennessy suffered a blow in his preparations for the race as jockey Philip Carberry, the only man to have ridden Sublimity over hurdles, broke his collarbone riding in France on Wednesday.

"I'll have news in a couple of hours about who will replace him," revealed Hennessy.

"I could do without this for my first runner."

Harchibald will be looking for a third victory in the Grade One, while another Irish raider is Harper Valley, third in the four-year-old Hurdle at Aintree in April.

Swinton Hurdle scorer Blue Bajan, Nicky Richards' highly-regarded Noble Alan and the promising Tazbar complete the line-up.


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