Former champion Epatante after back surgery

 In Lambourn News

Nicky Henderson believes we may see Epatante return to her brilliant best this season with the trainer sounding very hopeful that back surgery over the summer has corrected the cause of last season’s disappointment.

The 2020 Champion Hurdle winner may once more be a force in the best two-mile races, if an operation to correct kissing spines has made a difference, and the signs were good as she pleased Henderson in the annual gallops morning organised to promote next week’s Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.

“Watching her there, I like the way she put her head down and really galloped away,” said the six-time champion trainer. “I thought she was great. Her back’s always been her problem and that’s what we concentrated on.”

Asked if she may have been racing through some discomfort last season, Henderson said:  “It sort of looked that way. Her jumping said something, didn’t it? She was brilliant at Newcastle [in the Fighting Fifth] but then it fell to pieces.”

Henderson is waiting for rain before schooling Epatante over hurdles, which will offer even more of an insight into whether this summer’s surgery has helped her. His plan is to school the seven-year-old shortly before she returns to Newcastle for the Fighting Fifth at the end of next week, although he also hopes to see some rain at the track before committing to that race, for which she is the general 15-8 favourite.

“Goodness knows what we’re going to do if that can’t happen. Hopefully, they’ll put some water on it or she might have to stay at home. If it’s too quick, it’s too quick, you can’t chance it.”

A lack of rain at Haydock deterred Henderson from sending Champ to the Betfair Chase this weekend, although he also indicated the nine-year-old needs more time and might now be sent to Aintree for the Many Clouds Chase a fortnight on Saturday.

“He has also had back surgery, quite considerable surgery. You saw what happened at the first two fences in the Gold Cup, he just couldn’t get off the ground. And that was his back.”

Henderson also brought horses being aimed at races at the track next week, including Brave Eagle, his only entry in the Ladbrokes Trophy itself, who will be suited by the dry forecast. He also plans to give a hurdles debut at the track to Jonbon, a brother to Douvan who cost £570,000 at auction and worked on his own.

“When Jonbon worked last weekend, he just looked as if he needed to do another bit, so the obvious thing to do was to bring him here, nice day out, quietly do it on his own and not get too revved up.”

This gallops morning is a controversial subject for some fans, who voiced fears through social media that it was being used instead of a race for high-profile horses.

Henderson said: “It helps us a lot because we haven’t been able to get on the grass at all at home, because I haven’t got the watering system that they’ve got out there. The timing is perfect, just under a fortnight before. It’s a great opportunity to get them ready this way.”

Paul Nicholls committed to Enrilo as his sole runner in the Ladbrokes Trophy, with Next Destination being aimed at Saturday’s Betfair Chase instead. The champion trainer appeared well satisfied with his five gallopers after Monmiral eased past Enrilo and Clan Des Obeaux in the final furlong, with Kapcorse and Flash Collonges following at a respectful distance

Nicky Henderson believes we may see Epatante return to her brilliant best this season with the trainer sounding very hopeful that back surgery over the summer has corrected the cause of last season’s disappointment.

The 2020 Champion Hurdle winner may once more be a force in the best two-mile races, if an operation to correct kissing spines has made a difference, and the signs were good as she pleased Henderson in the annual gallops morning organised to promote next week’s Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.

“Watching her there, I like the way she put her head down and really galloped away,” said the six-time champion trainer. “I thought she was great. Her back’s always been her problem and that’s what we concentrated on.”

Asked if she may have been racing through some discomfort last season, Henderson said:  “It sort of looked that way. Her jumping said something, didn’t it? She was brilliant at Newcastle [in the Fighting Fifth] but then it fell to pieces.”

Henderson is waiting for rain before schooling Epatante over hurdles, which will offer even more of an insight into whether this summer’s surgery has helped her. His plan is to school the seven-year-old shortly before she returns to Newcastle for the Fighting Fifth at the end of next week, although he also hopes to see some rain at the track before committing to that race, for which she is the general 15-8 favourite.

“Goodness knows what we’re going to do if that can’t happen. Hopefully, they’ll put some water on it or she might have to stay at home. If it’s too quick, it’s too quick, you can’t chance it.”

A lack of rain at Haydock deterred Henderson from sending Champ to the Betfair Chase this weekend, although he also indicated the nine-year-old needs more time and might now be sent to Aintree for the Many Clouds Chase a fortnight on Saturday.

“He has also had back surgery, quite considerable surgery. You saw what happened at the first two fences in the Gold Cup, he just couldn’t get off the ground. And that was his back.”

Henderson also brought horses being aimed at races at the track next week, including Brave Eagle, his only entry in the Ladbrokes Trophy itself, who will be suited by the dry forecast. He also plans to give a hurdles debut at the track to Jonbon, a brother to Douvan who cost £570,000 at auction and worked on his own.

“When Jonbon worked last weekend, he just looked as if he needed to do another bit, so the obvious thing to do was to bring him here, nice day out, quietly do it on his own and not get too revved up.”

This gallops morning is a controversial subject for some fans, who voiced fears through social media that it was being used instead of a race for high-profile horses.

Henderson said: “It helps us a lot because we haven’t been able to get on the grass at all at home, because I haven’t got the watering system that they’ve got out there. The timing is perfect, just under a fortnight before. It’s a great opportunity to get them ready this way.”

Courtesy of Racing Post

 

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