Horses Racing to Glory

Epatante Suffers Health Scare Ahead of Cheltenham Festival

Nicky Henderson has reported his star mare and ante-post favourite for the Unibet Champion Hurdle on day one of the Cheltenham Festival, Epatante is suffering from a cough, which he hopes will not interfere with her ability to race.

The untimely scare became apparent just 12 days before the meeting and is being monitored closely by the Seven Barrows stable team, with the trainer not yet ruling her out of the illustrious race.

Henderson said that there is “no obvious reason” as to where the cough came from. He went on to say: “Her blood tests are perfectly normal and she is feeling very well and fresh in herself. She’s fit as a flea.”

The five-time British Jump racing champion trainer is more than hopeful for the 6-year-old mare, owned by Irish businessman, JP McManus – and is continuing with her final preparation for the Champion Hurdle albeit her regime has been altered.

Epatante stormed to the top of the ante-post following her impressive victory at Kempton last season on Boxing Day, where she came home five lengths clear of her rivals. It was a difficult test on soft grounds but the mare made it look easy, breezing past eventual second-place finisher, Silver Streak.

Her dominance quelled any worries of a repeat of last year’s performance in the Mares Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham Racecourse, where she couldn’t secure more than a ninth-place spot.

She’s matured remarkably on the track but since Henderson broke the news about her slip in health, betting firms have pushed her right out, with the 3-1 favourite now coming in at 10-3 with some bookmakers.

A question mark hangs over her in relation to her participation in Cheltenham Festival’s Champion Hurdle but Henderson has reported the mare to be on “medication that will not affect her racing or training.”

Nicky Henderson - Horse Racing Trainer

He also stated that the vets “will blood test and scope her again on Monday” which will put him in better stead to assess her health ahead of the race on Champion Day Tuesday.

Nicky’s dual winner Buveur D’Air is also out of the race at this time too, meaning it could be an easy ride for some of the more novice horses should Epatante’s health deteriorate. Henderson claims she’s the only horse in his stead suffering from the cough.

It’s a wait and see what happens next moment for now. Let’s hope she recovers quickly, the Cheltenham Festival roar is set to be unleashed in 10 days!

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