Epatante Likely To Be Put Away Until Festival


The Nicky Henderson trained Epatante swooped to the top of the Champion Hurdle betting at the Cheltenham festival in March after her amazing victory in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The mare has stepped up and become one of the first horses to stake a claim for the day one feature at Prestbury Park with the race being one of the only Grade One's at the festival that does not have a stand alone festival.

Epatante is unbeaten this season with her victory on Boxing Day and she started her campaign off at Newbury in an Introductory Handicap which she went on to storm clear in again.

She has won four out of five of her runs over hurdles with her only defeat coming at Cheltenham last March in the Grade Two Mares Novices Hurdle where something was clearly a miss finishing way back in ninth.

The five year old at the start of the season was 33/1 to take the Champion Hurdle but is now into as short as 4/1 with some high street firms, just taking favouritism at the top of the market from the Willie Mullins trained Klassical Dream.

(Credit Racing Post) Henderson said: "After speaking with JP we are thinking, 'do we need to run Epatante again before Cheltenham'? We know she is definitely going for the Champion Hurdle and she has already earned her place in the line-up.

"I've always thought a lot of her and actually felt she was one of our best chances going into last season's festival. That wasn't to be, but I don't think it was anything to do with Cheltenham, so I don't feel I need to suddenly rush out and run her on an undulating track.

"It's a bizarre situation because if you had looked at our squad a month ago you would have said we had Buveur D'Air, Fusil Raffles and Pentland Hills as a strong hand for the Champion Hurdle.

"I was pleased with Pentland Hills first time out but we've lost Buveur D'Air for the time being – he is mending very well but won't be back this season – and Fusil Raffles was a big disappointment at Kempton. All of a sudden, though, we have found another one in the cupboard in Epatante."