The road to the winner’s enclosure
TUESDAY 3.05 UNIBET CHAMPION HURDLE
DURING her novice season Epatante showed glimpses of class, especially on her hurdles debut at Kempton where she used up plenty of energy just running to the start, before cruising through the race and winning on the bridle. She began her second season off a mark of 137 and bolted up in a Listed handicap hurdle at Newbury before an even better performance in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Sent off 2-1 favourite for the 2020 Champion Hurdle, Nicky Henderson’s mare started somewhat slowly due to the standing start following a false start. As Petit Mouchoir set the pace, Barry Geraghty tucked Epatante in mid-division with plenty of room. After the second hurdle, surprise Fighting Fifth winner Cornerstone Lad took on the leader to ensure a fair pace as the favourite was positioned on the inside rail. As they hit the top of the hill Petit Mouchoir led Cornerstone Lad and the rest of the field by four lengths, with the novice Darver Star taking second and Epatante making good headway into third. As the pack made up ground, Darver Star and Petit Mouchoir jumped the second-last together, with the favourite travelling better than the rest, stalking the leading pair, with Supasundae alongside her. Turning for home and coming to the last, it looked as though Gavin Cromwell may win back-to-back Champion Hurdles as Darver Star hit the front as they jumped the last, but it was Epatante who jumped the flight the best and stayed on resolutely up the hill, ahead of the Willie Mullins-trained Sharjah, who came home strongly late on, but to no avail.