Epatante Among Five For Leading Trainer Henderson
Ante-post favourite Epatante, a 7/2 short with Paddy Power, is one of 36 entries for the Grade 1 2020 Champion Hurdle, the 2m highlight on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday, 10 March.
The Nicky Henderson trained-five-year-old mare, who carries the famous green and gold hoops of leading Irish owner JP McManus, has won four of her five starts over the obstacles and has been ultra-impressive in the last two of those this season.
After kicking off the campaign with a smooth success in a limited handicap hurdle at Newbury in November, the daughter of No Risk At All took the step up into Grade 1 company in her stride when travelling ominously well throughout before quickening clear to impressively beat Silver Streak by five lengths in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
She is clearly on a serious upward curve and the one they all have to beat and her handler is also the most successful handler in Champion Hurdle history with seven wins,. Her owner, meanwhile, has won the race a record eight times. If successful, Epatante would become the fifth mare to land the Champion Hurdle following Annie Power (2016), Flakey Dove (1994), Dawn Run (1984) and African Sister (1939).
She is among a quintet of entries for Seven Barrows handler Henderson which also feature another Grade 1 winning mare in Verdana Blue, Pentland Hills – the winner of last season’s Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival – Grade 2 International Hurdle victor Call Me Lord and Fusil Raffles who tasted his first defeat over the obstacles when pulled-up in the Christmas Hurdle.
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Williams hoping for another big run from Silver Streak
The aforementioned Silver Streak finished third in the 2019 Champion Hurdle and has continued in fine form this season for Welsh handler Evan Williams who reports him likely to go into this year’s renewal without any run. After readily landing a Listed hurdle at Kempton Park in October, the seven-year-old finished third behind Cornerstone Lad in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle before chasing home Epatante at Kempton.
Williams said:”Silver Streak is in good order and the Champion Hurdle is the target.
“It is likely that he will go straight there, though the Kingwell at Wincanton [15 February] is a possibility beforehand.
“He ran really well in the Christmas Hurdle and keeps running with credit in these big two-mile hurdles. With a bit of luck, hopefully he could be placed in the Champion Hurdle again.”
Silver Streak can be backed at 33/1 with William Hill at Cheltenham 2020 ante post.
Supreme Klassical Dream one of four for Mullins
Champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins, who has captured the Champion Hurdle four times since 2011, has four entered. His team includes the Rich Ricci owned pair of Saldier and Sharjah, who have both landed Grade 1 contests in Ireland this season, plus the 2019 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Klassical Dream, a 10/1 shot with Unibet, who has failed to fire in two starts this season when sent off odds-on on both occasions and now needs to bounce back to his brilliant best.
Saldier is the shortest in the betting and currently second favourite at a best price of 8/1 with William Hill. Sharjah is 10/1 with Paddy Power. There are four novices among the entries, with two of them hailing from the stable of Gordon Elliott – Abacadabras who is currently ante post favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and last year’s Champion Bumper hero Envoi Allen who is a perfect three from three over hurdles this season but more likely to run in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle for which he is all the rage and the 6/4 market leader with Ladbrokes.
Ireland’s hand is strengthened further by the presence of Henry De Bromhead’s unbeaten mare Honeysuckle, a standout 11/1 with William Hill, who secured the second Grade 1 of her career when strolling to a facile success in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on her latest start.
Other unexposed entries include Hugghie Morrison’s progressive handicapper Not So Sleepy, who bolted up in the Grade 3 Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot last month, and recent Sandown Park runner-up Eldorado Allen who hails from the yard of Colin Tizzard.
Full list of 36 entries for 2020 Champion Hurdle:
- Abacadabras (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Apple’s Jade (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Aramon (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Ballyandy (Nigel Twiston-Davies)
- Call Me Lord (Nicky Henderson)
- Coeur Sublime (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Cornerstone Lad (Micky Hammond)
- Darasso (Joseph O’Brien, IRE)
- Darver Star (Gavin Cromwell, IRE)
- Eldorado Allen (Colin Tizzard)
- Elgin (Alan King)
- Envoi Allen (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Epatante (Nicky Henderson)
- Felix Desjy (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Fusil Raffles (Nicky Henderson)
- Gumball (Philip Hobbs)
- Honeysuckle (Henry de Bromhead, IRE)
- Klassical Dream (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Le Patriote (Dr Richard Newland)
- Mengli Khan (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Mohaayed (Dan Skelton)
- Monsieur Lecoq (Jane Williams)
- Nelson River (Tony Carroll)
- Not So Sleepy (Hughie Morrison)
- Pacify (Jamie Snowden)
- Pentland Hills (Nicky Henderson)
- Petit Mouchoir (Henry de Bromhead, IRE)
- Quick Grabim (Fergal O’Brien)
- Saldier (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Samcro (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Sharjah (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Silver Streak (Evan Williams)
- Supasundae (Jessica Harrington, IRE)
- Thebannerkingrebel (Jamie Snowden)
- Thomas Darby (Olly Murphy)
- Verdana Blue (Nicky Henderson)