Epatante became the fifth mare to win the Grade 1 Unibet Champion Hurdle when routing the opposition in the feature on the opening day of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
Nicky Henderson and JP McManus were already the leading trainer and leading owner respectively in the race’s history, and she became an eighth for her trainer, and a ninth in the famous green and gold silks. She also became a 60th Festival winner for McManus, who celebrates his 69th birthday today.
Winning jockey Barry Geraghty is also no stranger to success in the race, and this was a fourth for the Co Meath man.
The mare was highly regarded prior to last year’s Festival but had a late flu vaccine which her trainer always maintained impacted on her ability to perform in the mares’ novice hurdle.
There was no repeat of that below-par performance this time as she moved stylishly through the race, looked the best horse in the race all the way, and despite making a couple of mistakes, quickened away up the straight to win in most convincing fashion.
Irish-trained horses finished second, third, fourth and fifth, with Willie Mullins’ Sharjah running on strongly from way off the pace to take the runner-up spot, Darver Star running the race of his life to take third for last year’s winning trainer, Gavin Cromwell, another of Mullins’ horses, the supplemented Cilaos Emery in third and Henry De Bromhead’s Petit Mouchoir in fifth.