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Epatante used her seven pounds mares’ allowance with great effect to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
She only beat Sharjah by three lengths so in theory was not the best horse in the race. There is an argument for running all Grade 1 races off level weights but the weight concessions for females over the jumps and on the Flat have stood the test of time and don’t look like changing any time soon.
Epatante begins her 2021 Champion Hurdle campaign in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday afternoon (2.05pm) where she looks sure to start as the odd on favourite.
The six-year-old gets the same seven pounds allowance from the other six runners who are all geldings. Epatante has a few pounds on hand in Official Ratings so she could go close carrying the same weight as the boys.
One negative for Epatante is the forecast good ground because most of her races have been run with some soft in the going description. A break of 265 days makes Epatante a vulnerable odds-on favourite in my opinion and Sceau Royal looks a viable alternative.
I think the Alan King trained eight-year-old offers betting value at 4/1 with bet365*. The horse is race fit after winning two races in the last six weeks. Winning a Class 1 Grade 2 hurdle at Wincanton by seven and a half lengths is decent form.
? Champion Hurdle hero Epantante will return in the Fighting Fifth this weekend
? Silver Streak & Sceau Royal are the main dangers in the current entries
The main issue is giving the favourite seven pounds but Sceau Royal has the form and fitness to overcome that burden. If Sceau Royal does beat Epatante at Newcastle despite the allowance, there could be the same outcome in the 2021 Champion Hurdle.
Vinndication Favourite for Newbury’s Ladbrokes Trophy
Is it Hennessy Day or Ladbrokes Trophy Day at Newbury on Saturday? Well the feature is a Grade 3 handicap chase over three miles and two furlongs and 21 fences.
Some stalwarts like myself still refer to the race by its old name. However, regardless of the title it is one of the most prestigious long distance races of the season. Gold Cup and Grand National winners have contested the race.
Ballyoptic heads a field of 18, just above the well-fancied Vinndication at the top of the weights, for the Ladbrokes Trophy at @NewburyRacing!#ITVRacing
Vinndication is the 6/1 favourite with bet365* and that looks a big price. Connections have aspirations for greater things with their progressive chaser. Skybet are as short as 33/1 for the Gold Cup and just 20/1 for the Grand National in the spring.
Vinndication has the class to carry second-top weight and win the ‘Hennessy’ and then be aimed at bigger targets.
Botox Has is the top weight in the listed handicap hurdle at 2.25pm on the same Newbury card which is formally called the Gerry Feilden.
It’s a Class 1 race over about two miles on ground that is forecast to be good-good to soft in places. With nine declared runners, Botox Has looks an each way bet to nothing at 6/1 with 888sport* who pay one fifth the win odds for three places.
Marie’s Rock is the early 6/4 favourite with bet365* and carries five pounds less than Boxton Has. However, the last of Marie’s Rock three wins in three starts was 334 days ago.
Marie’s Rock has had wind operation since that race and it’s debatable whether that has a positive effect. A better option may be an each way bet on the race fit Boxton Has.