Day three of the Cheltenham Festival is often called “St Patrick’s Thursday”, but the luck of the Irish may desert them in the Dawn Run Hurdle for novice mares (16:50).
In Epatante, the home team have a leading contender at 5/2 with Coral to break the Emerald Isle’s stranglehold on the Grade 2 contest over 2m 1f.
Trained by Nicky Henderson, this five-year-old French import is unbeaten since major jumps racehorse owner JP McManus purchased her and sent her to the Seven Barrows handler.
Epatante won a Grade 1 bumper at Saint-Cloud easing down by three very cosy lengths in November 2017. That top class form over 1m 4f caught the eye of legendary gambler McManus and led to him buying her.
Prior to her big race victory across the Channel, this daughter of the aptly named No Risk At All was progressive in two previous bumper starts.
On debut for Henderson and over hurdles at Kempton last November, Epatante tracked the leaders and closed menacingly after three out.
She led jumping the penultimate flight and, although briefly pressed at the last, readily drew clear to score by 3 1/2 lengths.
Progressive and unexposed young mare
It was a very taking debut over the obstacles for Epatante and she followed-up at Exeter last month when winning by a similar margin.
While you can question what she beat when returned at odds of 1/6, there’s no doubt she travelled very strongly throughout and was again produced to take up the running two out under Barry Geraghty.
Epatante could do no more than beat the opposition put in front of her, and she gave weight away to all bar one of the field.
Her cause in the Dawn Run is helped considerably by the absence of main ante post market rival Honeysuckle, who trainer Henry De Bromhead withdrew at the six-day stage.
Without that one to worry about, the challenge to Epatante is headed by Posh Trish from the Paul Nicholls stable, but she is very exposed by comparison.
There looks to be plenty more to come from Henderson’s young mare. As a former Irish point winner, Posh Trish may need further than the 2m 1f trip of the Dawn Run Hurdle and has landed races over greater distances already.
Epatante looks open to tons of further progress after two bloodless wins in this sphere and is thus a worthy favourite for the hat-trick.
Bet of the Day: Epatante at 5/2 with Coral to win the Dawn Run Hurdle.