Champion Hurdle: Epatante ‘good each-way value’ to regain Cheltenham crown says Barry Geraghty | Racing News

Former Irish Champion Jockey Barry Geraghty is expecting a big run from 2020 Champion Hurdle winner Epatante when she bids to win her crown back at the Cheltenham Festival next month.

The eight-year-old mare was at the top of the hurdling pile two years ago when landing the feature hurdle at The Festival but went down to unbeaten mare Honeysuckle in the 2021 race, finishing over nine lengths behind in third.

She returned this year with a dead-heat victory in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle but was more impressive in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, putting away a decent field that included Soaring Glory and Tritonic.

That effort impressed Geraghty, who rode Epatante to Champion Hurdle victory in 2020.

“I thought Epatante ran well at Christmas and won well because Not So Sleepy who you thought would make the running didn’t after getting away slow,” he said.

“I thought she jumped brilliantly which is a good sign of her wellbeing and she was a bit keen.

“She probably didn’t finish as strongly as she ran with the choke out a little bit through the race. Whether that’s good enough to beat Honeysuckle I can’t say.

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Barry Geraghty has given a positive mention to 2020 Champion Hurdle winner Epatante who will bid to regain her title next month, taking on unbeaten mare Honeysuckle.

“Honeysuckle is an obvious one after what she did in the Irish Champion Hurdle but you were expecting that.

“Appreciate It is a very good horse. His time in the Supreme was only two seconds slower than Honeysuckle’s Champion Hurdle on the same day and the ground would’ve dried up in the two hours between the races so I think he’s a very good horse.

“It’s not ideal going there without a run and I suppose a lack of experience would be the question mark about him but I do think Epatante is probably good each-way value and I think she could just fill the frame.”

Geraghty also gave a positive mention to Sir Gerhard, who could line up in either the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle or the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, with the Irish jockey favouring the longer trip of the Ballymore.

“Sir Gerhard it was a brilliant performance but you’d have to question his jumping, it was a little untidy,” he added.

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Barry Geraghty has indicated that Willie Mullins’ Grade One novice hurdler Sir Gerhard could be better suited to the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

“But at the top level in the Supreme or the Ballymore that will be tested so he’ll have to iron out those creases.

“I would’ve thought the Ballymore would be better for him.

“The step up in trip might just give him a bit of time to organise his jumping. He was very good when he was on a good stride but when he was a little bit long he seemed to guess.

“He wasn’t good at the last and they bypassed the second last so there wasn’t as many to jump and it wasn’t as competitive as it will be at Cheltenham.

“Willie won it last year with Appreciate It and immediately ruled out the Supreme but he’s left it open with this lad and he said the horse is versatile.

“I think the Ballymore is a slightly weaker race and I think he could be tough to beat.”

Supreme favourite Constitution Hill was broken in by Geraghty, who then sent the horse to trainer Nicky Henderson, where he has won his first two starts in devastating fashion including the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.

Although he now looks a potential superstar, the trainer wasn’t always as convinced, as Geraghty explained.

“Nicky phoned me in the Autumn as in his early work he was so switched-off and he was dossing. He asked if he was ok because he was expecting a bit more!

“I said once he got on the gallops, you’ll know what I was talking about and he called me back a few weeks later and he understood that.

“It’s always better if you have a horse that can relax but I thought Jonbon was better at Ascot, although he got a bit excited after but that could’ve just been because he was full of steam.

“They are saving energy rather than burning energy and you need every ounce for that hill at Cheltenham and you don’t want a horse to overdo it during the preliminaries or the early part of the race.”

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