Henderson reveals back issue for Epatante

Epatante has been treated for a back issue since her defeat in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

Nicky Henderson’s mare, the reigning champion hurdler, suffered her first defeat since the 2019 Cheltenham Festival at the hands of Silver Streak.

Her winning spree encompassed three Grade Ones, but she was turned over at 1-5 at Kempton and had Henderson looking for a reason – which he thinks he may have found.

“No (she won’t run before Cheltenham), that’s an easy answer. She didn’t last year and she won’t this year,” Henderson told ITV’s The Opening Show.

“We’re very pleased. We’ve been tinkering, obviously she wasn’t right at Kempton.

“It was her back, more than anything, I think, and that is what we have been trying to sort out – hopefully we have. It’s just got her more relaxed in her back and more supple. Something was agitating her on the day.”

Henderson, who also confirmed Santini will run at Sandown next weekend if, as suggested, the Cotswold Chase is rearranged there, admitted he is still favouring the Queen Mother over the Ryanair Chase for former champion chaser Altior.

“He’ll run in the Game Spirit and then we’ll decide from there. He’s in both, but I would be favouring the Champion Chase,” he said.

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