Sat, 28 Nov 2020
EPATANTE left it late to secure victory in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on her debut this season for trainer Nicky Henderson.
The victory for Epatante was Henderson's sixth victory in this race as the six-year-old edged out Sceau Royal to stay on course for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
East Ilsley trainer Hughie Morrison had Not So Sleepy in the race, but drama at the first hurdle saw jockey Paddy Brennan come off the saddle.
Speaking after the race, Henderson said: "It is relief as much as anything because of everything she did last year and there was no fluke about it.
"I thought she was great," he said. "She is a proper hurdler, she is quick, fast, slick and the great thing is you can press a button and off she goes and it's great that it works."
Now the Seven Barrows trainer believes the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton will be next on the list for Epatante, ahead of a return to the Cheltenham Festival in 2021.
“She will go to the Christmas Hurdle almost certainly. That’s why this fits in better than the International (Hurdle at Cheltenham next month). I was delighted to see her do that and the gears worked.
"She will come on, she has been to Newbury for a racecourse gallop and she has been in good form where we have had a trouble free run.
"She had a superb summer and she came in looking fantastic from Martinstown and it makes my job easier and it is nice to see something quicken up like that," added Henderson.
The local trainer was speaking at Newbury, where he had a number of runners in the Ladbrokes Winter Carnvial.