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  News Willie Mullins says Wicklow Brave is fighting fit for Newcastle date

Willie Mullins says Wicklow Brave is fighting fit for Newcastle date

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Wicklow Brave steps up to the plate for the 12th time this year in the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.

Wicklow Brave steps up to the plate for the 12th time this year in the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.

Willie Mullins' versatile performer has turned up at several of the big festivals in 2015, including Cheltenham, Royal Ascot, Galway and York's Ebor meeting.

Wicklow Brave will be kept on the go for at least this race after being supplemented at Monday's confirmation stage following his fine third behind stablemates Nichols Canyon and Faugheen in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown two weeks ago.

"Wicklow Brave has been improving away over the summer and that's why we kept him for it (Morgiana) and thought he'd play a big part in it," said Mullins.

"He was supposed to go out on grass, but with Annie Power dropping out, he's going to have to wait another week or two before he goes out."

Wicklow Brave runs for owner Nick Peacock under the Wicklow Bloodstock Ltd banner.

"It's all systems go," said Peacock.

"We've been thinking about giving him a break and then something else pops up.

"It's no penalty kick. It will be a pretty tough race. There's some strong opposition and he's not the only one that's been supplemented.

"They must think a lot of Identity Thief and obviously Irving and Nicky Henderson's horse (Top Notch) are not going to be easy to beat.

"They are beatable, but it's going to be pretty tight, I would think.

"We must regard Ruby (Walsh) being on board as a big positive. It's very exciting."

Last year's winner Irving will be bidding complete a hat-trick this month following his exploits in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton and at Haydock last weekend.

"The plan was always to go to Newcastle, but then we thought the Haydock race would cut up, which it did," said Dan Downie, racing manager for owners Axom.

"Nick (Scholfield, jockey) was adamant afterwards the horse didn't have a particularly hard race and we should still go for the Fighting Fifth.

"Obviously we've kept a close eye on him this week and he seems fine, so we're going back.

"He's in really good form and this is his probably his time of year. He'll like the ground and he'll like the track.

"He doesn't want good ground. The festivals are a bit hit and miss with him because the likelihood is he wouldn't get his ground.

"That's why we just felt we ought to run on Saturday, then give him a break and then find something else in the new year.

"We wouldn't be going if we weren't very happy with him.

"He seems a different horse. He won at Newcastle last year, but this looks a tougher race so he will have to be better anyway, but Nick knows him well and rides him with a lot of confidence."

Robert Stephens feels there is still more to come from Beltor, who starts his second season hurdling after finishing sixth in the Triumph following wins at Ludlow and in the Adonis at Kempton.

"Starting him out in a race like this should be ideal and a small field will suit him," said the Newport trainer.

"He won a Grade Two last season so is more than entitled to take his chance.

"He pulled clear of a future Grade One winner (All Yours) at Kempton so that form stacks up and you can forget his Cheltenham performance in the Triumph.

"He's only had three runs over hurdles and is lightly raced on the Flat, too, so could be open to more improvement.

"He's come back from his break in good form and we're happy with him at home.

"We'll learn a lot more about where we are with him in regards to the big races in the spring but if he was to run badly we could go down the handicap route with him."

Karl Burke reports Intense Tango all the better for her reappearance behind Blue Buttons at Wetherby.

"There are some very good horses in there, but she's in great form and she'll strip a lot fitter than she was at Wetherby," said the North Yorkshire handler.

"She looks tremendous and we'll give it a go.

"Most of the horses will have to travel overnight and we're the only local runner.

"The ground would be slightly against her. Any rain would be a negative for her.

"She'd prefer a bit better ground, but it won't be as bad as Wetherby.

"Wetherby found her fitness out, but she will be much fitter this time and is in very good form."