Epatante in cruise control for confidence-boosting triumph at Doncaster

Nicky Henderson’s 2020 champion hurdler Epatante had no trouble in getting back to winning ways dropped in class for the Sky Bet Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle.

A multiple Grade One winner against the boys, she has found life tough this season – taking on her esteemed stablemate Constitution Hill in both the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdles.

With races at Cheltenham and Haydock called off in recent weeks due to the adverse weather she was back in against her sex at Doncaster and the red-hot 2-9 favourite to oblige.

Nico de Boinville – on board for the first time since winning the 2021 Christmas Hurdle on her – never had a moment of worry and let her off the leash approaching the last on the way to a six-and a-half-length win from Salsada.

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“She felt great today, jumped really well and travelled away great, it’s nice for her to pick one up like this,” said De Boinville.

“It gives you an idea how good Constitution Hill is, but the team at home had her in really good shape for this today.

“Aidan (Coleman) said she felt fantastic at Kempton and she did today, it will be interesting to she where they decide to go at Cheltenham.”

Nico de Boinville and Rachel McMahon with Epatante
Nico de Boinville and Rachel McMahon with Epatante (Richard Sellers/PA)

Rachel McMahon rides the mare every day, but is currently out of action, as she explained.

“A horse called Love Bite bit my finger and broke it,” she said.

“I’d normally ride her every day and we’d love a few more like her, she’s so tough and her main aim today was to get her confidence back.

“It could be worse, Constitution Hill could be in another yard. You’d think getting beaten out of sight by him would have sickened her off, but not a bit of it.

“I think she’s certainly as good as last year and without him she’d have won another two Grade Ones.”

Give Me A Cuddle (blue) forges to the front
Give Me A Cuddle (blue) forges to the front (Richard Sellers/PA)

De Bonville had already won on Give Me A Cuddle (15-2) in the first division of the Happy 60th Birthday Neil Young Handicap Hurdle.

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It was a welcome winner for Neil King who had endured a very quiet start tot he season.

Good Bye was rewarded for a string of consistent efforts when streaking away with the first division.

The Sara Ender-trained winner was sent off 7-1 under Philip Armson.

Ender said: “He’s a star, he’s never been out of the first four since we got him but he usually doesn’t want to go past!

“We’ve just sweetened him up a bit and the past few weeks his confidence has grown and grown.

“The only time he’d won for us before today was because a loose horse helped him up the run-in! Today is the first time he’s wanted to go and do it on his own.”

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