Christmas Hurdle Tips: Silver Streak to chase home Epatante

Christmas Hurdle Tips: Epatante is a warm order to bag Boxing Day glory once again.
Christmas Hurdle Tips: Epatante is a warm order to bag Boxing Day glory once again.

Steve Chambers previews the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle, which takes place at Kempton Park on Boxing Day and will see reigning Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante line up as a red-hot favourite to retain her crown...

Nicky Henderson has dominated the Christmas Hurdle over the last decade, winning seven of the last ten renewals of the Kempton Park hurdle showpiece, and the Seven Barrows handler has a magnificent chance of enhancing that already impressive record this weekend as he saddles the reigning champion and red-hot odds-on favourite Epatante, who heads into the contest as the premier hurdler in training over two miles.

Six wins from seven hurdle outings have launched Epatante to the summit of the two-mile hurdling division, and having scooted clear of her rivals in last season's Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, the six-year-old mare kicked off this season with a facile win in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November.

Last season was a marquee campaign for the JP McManus-owned starlet as she was a sensational three-length winner of the Champion Hurdle in March, where she beat Sharjah with aplomb at the festival, and having blitzed her rivals in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle she is already a short-priced jolly for the 2021 Champion Hurdle.

Having won on her British debut at Kempton Park back in 2018, Epatante returned to the Surrey venue last Christmas to try and claim her first success in Grade 1 company, and she duly obliged in stunning fashion as the 2/1 joint-favourite travelled serenely for Barry Geraghty before scooting clear of a smart field to win by an emphatic five lengths. It was a similar story in the Champion Hurdle in March, as the smooth traveller picked up in fine fashion to pull clear of her rivals, while her easiest success to date came in the 2020 Fighting Fifth Hurdle. She may have only beaten Sceau Royal by four and a quarter lengths, but the manner in which she smoothly pulled clear of Alan King's raider in the closing stages was a joy to watch, and she duly secured her place as the premier hurdler in the UK & Ireland.

Saturday's test appears to be equally as straight forward, if she can continue to perform to her highest level, as she not only takes on the aforementioned Sceau Royal, who she dispatched with aplomb at Newcastle, she also takes on Silver Streak, who she beat comfortably in last season's Christmas Hurdle, so Epatante is a well deserved odds-on favourite for the Christmas Hurdle, and she can cruise to a second win in the race.

Alan King's Sceau Royal started the season in fine form, winning the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las before going on to claim Elite Hurdle glory at Wincanton, but the Barbury Castle inmate has since struggled to build on those two early season victories and has been well beaten in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and the International Hurdle at Cheltenham earlier this month. There's no doubting that the eight-year-old has talent, but has often found life tough at the highest level, and with the going set to be testing at Kempton Park, he will find it very tough to record a prominent finish.

On the contrary, Silver Streak has been blossoming all season and kicked off this season with a hugely impressive six and a half length victory in a listed event at Kempton in October. Carried out in the early stages of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, the Evan Williams-trained star was then just narrowly beaten by Song For Someone in the International Hurdle a few weeks ago at Cheltenham, and he will look to continue his fine form on Boxing Day.

Cheltenham Festival Tips

On three previous visits to Kempton Park, Silver Streak has finished first twice and claimed second spot in last season's Christmas Hurdle, so he has a fine record at the track, and while he will be unable to get the better of Epatante if she performs to her optimum, Williams' charge appears to be the biggest danger to the Henderson hotpot, and if Silver Streak can continue to fire on all cylinders then looks to be the bet against the jolly. For many a win bet on Epatante is not a worthy punt, so shall look for value elsewhere, but with less than eight runners then there's only two places each-way. However, Silver Streak should be able to finish in the top two, so is the each-way selection, while those who fancy doing a forecast should look no further than an Epatante, Silver Streak one-two.

Arguably the most fascinating entry is Gary Moore's Goshen, who was last seen finishing last of ten in the International Hurdle, but in the aftermath of that disappointing defeat he was found to have a filbrilating heart. Last year's juvenile star, who suffered a last hurdle fall when way clear in the Triumph Hurdle, was expecting to be the new, emerging talent in the Grade 1 hurdling division this season, but his Cheltenham run has left many wondering whether he can become a Champion Hurdle contender.

You can't write Moore's star off if he does take his chance, as some of his four-year-old runs were exceptional, but it's hard to back him with any sort of confidence and he is best watching, should he line up in the 2m contest on Boxing Day.

Nigel Twiston-Davies will unleash wily old campaigner Ballyandy, who finished third in the 2019 Christmas Hurdle, and has become a real solid yardstick in the top-class hurdling division. Third in the International Hurdle earlier this month, Ballyandy's last victory came in the Champion Hurdle trial at Haydock in January, but he has been a horse that has often found a couple too good at Graded level, so he can be discounted.

The Henderson team will be spearheaded by Epatante, but they could saddle another exciting mare in the shape of Floressa, who was last seen winning the Gerry Feilden at Newbury. A current 33/1 chance for the Mares' Hurdle, Floressa will need to improve immeasurably from that Newbury success, and it's hard to see her being a factor, while Diego Du Charmil will be the sole representative for Paul Nicholls, who has yet to train the winner of the Christmas Hurdle, and that run shall continue as Diego Du Charmil was well beaten by Sceau Royal in the Elite Hurdle.

An event devoid of strength in depth, Epatante can claim her second win the Christmas Hurdle, and for the second year running it can be Silver Streak that chases her home.

Selection:

Christmas Hurdle, Kempton Park, Saturday 26th December - back Epatante to beat SIlver Streak straight forecast

Christmas Hurdle, Kempton Park, Saturday 26th December - back Silver Streak (each-way) at 7/1

Christmas Hurdle
Silver Streak silk

Silver Streak (EW)

won
Cheltenham Festival Races

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