All systems go for Epatante at Christmas

Kempton repeat on the agenda before Cheltenham defence.

  • Thursday 17 December
  • News
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Epatante is to have her last run before the defence of her Cheltenham crown in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The Nicky Henderson-trained mare, owned by JP McManus, took the Grade One feature on her way to winning the Unibet Champion Hurdle in March.

She has already shown her well-being this term when lifting the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

“You are always nervous ahead of their seasonal reappearance. It (Fighting Fifth Hurdle) was a mess of a race, but Sceau Royal is a good marker,” said Henderson.

“Daryl (Jacob, rider of Sceau Royal) said he couldn’t believe a horse could go past him going that fast, because he wasn’t stopping.

“Aidan (Coleman) gave her a beautiful ride, but there is a button and you just pray it is going to work every time you press it. She is extraordinary, that change of gear is electric.

“She goes along as if she is doing nothing, she is so slick. The way she crosses a hurdle is a bit scary. It’s a bit like Buveur D’Air, it is A to B like an arrow. It is just so economic.

“She will go straight to the Unibet Champion Hurdle (after the Christmas Hurdle). As it worked last year, I see no reason why not to put her away until Cheltenham.”

Henderson also intends to run Floressa, with her owners keen to take the plunge.

The five-year-old mate won the race formerly known as the Gerry Fielden at Newbury as Epatante had done 12 months earlier.

He told Unibet: “The team that owns Floressa, being an exuberant bunch, have managed to persuade me to run her in the Christmas Hurdle.

“I said she wants two and a half miles and running in the Gerry Fielden was stupid, I thought Marie’s Rock would win that and they were mad.

“Now they are crowing and they have got their programme book, and I haven’t got mine any more, it is totally up to them.

“Even they know Floressa isn’t going to win the Christmas Hurdle, but there is Grade One black type in there for placed horses, so it could be a very valuable asset to her CV.”

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