Darlan out of Fighting Fifth
Darlan will not run in the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday, trainer Nicky Henderson confirmed.
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The high-class five-year-old will not be declared on Thursday morning due to the prospect of testing conditions.
"Darlan will not be going to Newcastle," said the Seven Barrows handler.
"We ummed and aahed about it for a long time, but the decision was taken because of the ground."
Rock On Ruby, last season's Champion Hurdle winner, will also miss his intended seasonal reappearance at Newcastle.
Trainer Harry Fry's decision has similarly been influenced by the ground.
The seven-year-old will instead run in the Stan James International Hurdle at Cheltenham on December 15.
Fry said in a statement issued to Press Association Sport: "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."
The defections of Darlan and Rock On Ruby leaves a final field of just four declared runners, headed by last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle hero Cinders And Ashes.
The five-year-old's trainer, Donald McCain, 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.