The Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle is the highlight of Newcastle racecourseís national hunt season and the first genuine Champion Hurdle trial of the campaign leading up to the prestigious Cheltenham Festival.
Five horses have completed the double in the past including Night Nurse and Kribensis, with the feat most recently being achieved in 2009 by Nicky Hendersonís Punjabi.
But it is another of Hendersonís former Champion Hurdlerís who will headline the race this year in the shape of Binocular.
The seven year-old was unable to defend his 2010 Cheltenham crown earlier this year due to an illegal substance having being found in his blood just days before the race.
And after Irish sensation Hurricane Fly was left to pick up the pieces, Binocular and connections are now firmly in the hunt to regain the title come March, beginning with a first assignment in this much coveted race at the Tyneside track.
Binocular has shown in the past that he tends to need his first run of the season to gain optimum fitness, however he will still be a strong favourite when the field make their way down to post.
Old foe Celestial Halo will be Binocularís closest rival in the market and Paul Nicholls charge bounced back to form when winning at Chepstow in October, albeit thanks to a final flight fall from smart novice Grandouet who was seemingly travelling much better.
Many may well wish to take Binocular on should he assume odds-on favouritism and there could be some each way value elsewhere in the field.
Donald McCainís Overturn is probably just shy of Champion Hurdle class, however unlike the rest of the probable line-up at Newcastle he will be fighting fit from a series of top notch runs on the flat.
A regular front-runner, Overturn could well get his own way at the head of affairs if he manages to force the issue and get the usually held up Binocular on the stretch.
Paul Nicholls other entry Brampour also holds claims after his fantastic success in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenhamís Open Meeting, but he will need to improve further still if he is to make an impression on these terms.
That would be no surprise however considering how well Paul Nicholls tends to bring on his handicappers and generate sufficient improvement to turn them into horses of Graded class.
The race is likely to consist of a small, elite field when the final declarations are made and any ante-post Cheltenham backers will be hopeful that Binocular can pull enough out of the bag to secure victory.
It would certainly put him right back in the Champion Hurdle picture after becoming a somewhat forgotten horse due to the unfortunate circumstances that happened and the stylish performance at Cheltenham from the powerful Hurricane Fly who has since assumed world-beater status.
Often tactical, the Fighting Fifth can benefit horses that force the pace and can see out every yard of the two mile trip.
Binocular will need to be fit enough to last out and come from the back of the field to get his head in front of the fitter horses that have not had such a prolonged period off the track.
A decent betting heat and race in its own right, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle should also provide a wealth of Cheltenham clues and help form the basis of the Champion Hurdle ante-post market.
And Binocular is likely to be prominent in the Festival betting if he can successfully initiate this first task and successfully get back in the chase to become the best two-mile hurdler in the sport.
© Frixo 2013