Flame fired up for Fighting Fifth
Countrywide Flame has been confirmed an intended runner in the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.
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Trainer John Quinn voiced concerns about the prospect of testing conditions earlier this week, but connections have now given the four-year-old the green light.
Sean Quinn, the North Yorkshire handler's son and assistant, tweeted: "We just spoke with @RobEstio (owner) and given Countrywide Flame's well being have decided to let him take his chance in the Fighting Fifth this weekend.
"I just hope Newcastle don't get any more rain to put the meeting in jeopardy.
"Looking forward to it now!"
Countrywide Flame was a 33/1 winner of the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, but proved that to be no fluke with a sound effort behind Grumeti at Aintree a month later.
He made a winning return to the Flat at Chester in September and was only narrowly denied Cesarewitch glory at Newmarket last month.
Trainer Harry Fry will wait until Thursday morning before deciding whether to let Rock On Ruby take his chance in the two-mile Grade One.
The seven-year-old was prepared by Fry to win last season's Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, when officially trained by Paul Nicholls.
Fry has since started out on his own and had been looking forward to seeing his stable star start off the new campaign in the Fighting Fifth, but heavy conditions would not be ideal.
He said: "Declaration time is obviously 10am in the morning and we'll leave it as late as possible.
"He's ready to go, but unfortunately the weather has messed things up a bit.
"We'll see how things are looking first thing in the morning.
"If he doesn't run, he'll go for the International at Cheltenham in a fortnight's time."
Another horse for whom plans are uncertain is the Nicky Henderson-trained Darlan, owned by JP McManus.
McManus' racing manager, Frank Berry, said: "We haven't made a final decision yet.
"We want to run but we're waiting to see what way the ground is going to go."
One horse who will definitely be lining up is Irish challenger Trifolium.
The five-year-old is also engaged in Sunday's Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse, but is instead set to cross the Irish Sea.
Trainer Charles Byrnes hopes a wind operation can help his charge put a disappointing seasonal reappearance behind him.
Byrnes said: "He's definitely running at Newcastle and we're looking forward to the race.
"He's had a minor wind operation since his last run.
"It's only a small field on Saturday and there is some good prize-money. Hopefully we'll bring a bit of it home with us."