Countrywide Flame leapt into the Champion Hurdle picture with a most impressive victory in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

The sponsors slashed John Quinn's four-year-old to 8-1 from 25-1 after the Triumph Hurdle winner captured the scalp of Supreme Novices' scorer Cinders And Ashes in some style.

The two Cheltenham Festival victors had the race to themselves over the last two flights, and it was Countrywide Flame (11-4) who came out on top.

Bothy held a narrow lead from Trifolium, with Countrywide Flame third and Cinders And Ashes last of the four runners through the early stages.

Trifolium was the first beat, and Bothy followed soon afterwards, while Denis O'Regan, riding Countrywide Flame for the first time, always looked confident.

He pulled 12 lengths clear of 10-11 favourite Cinders And Ashes and both horses are set to reappear over the Christmas period, but may not necessarily clash again then.

Quinn said: "This year he has improved a stone on the Flat and he had to improve a stone over hurdles to be a real Champion Hurdle horse. Looking at that you'd say he has improved.

"He's only a four-year-old and has done nothing but improve.

"There were three good horses in with him today and he's done it well.

"There's the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and I've also put him in the Istabraq Hurdle at Leopardstown. I think we'll probably go to Ireland.

"Then he'll have another run, then he'll go for the Champion Hurdle.

"There's the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and I've also put him in the Istabraq Hurdle at Leopardstown. I think we'll probably go to Ireland," - John Quinn

"He's gone on every ground and he's looked a good horse on every ground.

"Every trainer needs a good horse and I'm glad for the yard. He's the best hurdler I've ever had, he's got speed."

O'Regan said: "It's great to ride him. I haven't had a Grade One winner for quite a while.

"Dougie (Costello) normally rides him but he went to Newbury for the Hennessy. I've seen Dougie ride this horse brilliantly.

"He told me everything about the horse the other day, how he jumps and how he settles.

"Dougie told me how to ride him and he's such a lovely horse. I'm so pleased I was on him today, but he's Dougie's ride.

"He was very impressive today and he's a serious horse. He wouldn't be without a chance in the Champion Hurdle."

Cinders And Ashes' trainer Donald McCain felt the going was the reason for his horse's defeat.

He said: "He was beaten by the ground going past here (winning post) for the first time.

"What could we do? We couldn't just keep him in his box. If we are looking for the ground then I'll think we'll have to go to Kempton for the Christmas Hurdle. It would be the obvious choice.

"Nothing I've seen today will stop us going there on good ground."

Brian Ellison said of third-placed Bothy: "He wants further."