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Nicky Henderson extended his exceptional record in the Grade 1 Unibet Champion Hurdle to eight when Epatante took the two-mile championship contest under Barry Geraghty, for whom it was a fourth, record-equalling, success in the race.
2/1 favourite Epatante, a six-year-old mare, is the fifth of her sex to win the Champion Hurdle, and the first since Annie Power in 2016. She beat the Willie Mullins-trained Sharjah (16/1) by three lengths in what was a ninth success in the race for owner J P McManus.
Sharjah briefly threatened on the run to the last hurdle, while Darver Star (17/2), trained by 2019 Unibet Champion Hurdle winning trainer Gavin Cromwell, ran with huge credit to finish in third place.
The winner, Epatante, was unplaced in the G2 novice mares’ hurdle at The Festival last year, but Geraghty said: “She got lit up on the day last year, when we put the hood on her. She was keen at Exeter and we just felt that the occasion was going to light her up, so we put the hood on her. She ran with the choke out. We plugged her ears today – she settled lovely yet travelled sweetly. There are always a lot of decisions to be made in the run up to a race and thankfully, they went right, as they can often go wrong.”
3.30pm Unibet Champion Hurdle (Grade 1)
1 Epatante (J P McManus) Nicky Henderson & Barry Geraghty 2/1f
2 Sharjah (Susannah Ricci) Willie Mullins & Mr Patrick Mullins 16/1
3 Darver Star (SSP Number Twenty Two Syndicate) Gavin Cromwell & Jonathan Moore 17/2
Distances: 3, 3¾.