Epatante

Trainer Nicky Henderson is already looking ahead to next season’s campaign for Epatante, as he plots her defence of her Champion Hurdle crown.

The six year-old mare made it four consecutive wins in the race for owner JP McManus, with Henderson’s dual winner Buveur D’Air sidelined through injury.

Ahead of this year’s Festival, Epatante won the Gerry Feilden Intermediate Hurdle at Newbury and Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle, but she will not be eligible for the former race next term.

Henderson, speaking to TheSportingLife.com, said:

“She is going to have to go down a different route back to the Champion Hurdle to what she started this season.

“Hopefully we have Buveur D’Air back in action and the Fighting Fifth has always been his race, so we would have to think what we do.

“It was good and everything she did was very professional to be fair and everything went right. It was a lovely ride from Barry (Geraghty),” said the Seven Barrows handler.

“She jumped and travelled well and you could she looked to have a good shout from a long way out, as she was always in the right position.

“She showed the gears I hoped she would show, as a lot of people said when she showed them at Kempton it would be different at Cheltenham. Luckily for us she did show them the whole way up the hill.

“We have constantly stood by her excuses for last year’s run at the Festival and luckily she has vindicated us for doing that.”

Meanwhile, Henderson retains all of his faith in Pentland Hills and Fusil Raffles, who failed to fire in the Champion Hurdle.

“Pentland Hills and Fusil Raffles – we are investigating into them.

“It is always hard for four year-olds that turn five in their second season.

“They will definitely be back stronger. I am confident they are both still Grade One horses.”