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Nicky Henderson provides Epatante and Shishkin updates ahead of Ladbrokes Christmas Festival at Kempton

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Nicky Henderson is confident Epatante can repeat what she achieved in 2019 by winning the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The seven year old was defeated in this race 12 months ago, but she made a winning re-appearance when dead-heating with Not So Sleepy in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle earlier this month.

The Seven Barrow trainer has revealed how well preparations have come along as she goes up against a competitive field on Sunday.


He said: “I’m very happy after Newcastle, everything up to that point had gone well and as you could see she travelled well and jumped beautifully.

“She just had a little bit of a bumpy passage from the second last to the last flight and while we’ll settle for a dead heat, the most pleasing thing was the way that she had run, travelled and jumped.

“Her hallmark is her jumping and that’s where she was when she won the Fighting Fifth last year.

“That was missing at Kempton last year but I am very happy with where we are,” he added. “Aidan Coleman is banned, so Nico de Boinville will be riding her.”

Meanwhile, Shishkin could make his seasonal debut during the Ladbrokes Christmas Festival, with a run in the Grade Two Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase on Monday, December 27 a possibility.

The Supreme winner has not been seen on a racecourse since April, when he won the Maghull Novice Chase at Aintree, and Henderson has discussed the chances of seeing him return at Kempton on Monday.

“He’s only done one serious piece since I’ve been able to bring him back and he’s fine, but I’ve got to be happy with him and we’ll decide then whether we enter him or whether we wait for the Clarence House.

Nicky Henderson at his Lambourn stables
Nicky Henderson at his Lambourn stables

“I hope we do declare him, but if we don’t I hope everybody will understand,” added the Seven Barrows handler. “The horse comes first and he needs to work very well for us to be happy.

“Personally I think he ranks at the top of the division, but we’re not going to prove it if we’re only going out 95% fit - there’s no point in doing that.

“I’m dying to run him and he’s got to get out there and run – he needs at least two good runs before March – and Kempton followed by Ascot could fit.

“He has the potential to emulate Altior and Sprinter Sacre, but he hasn’t done that yet. He’s only out of Novice company and now he’s got to do it against the older boys.”

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