Aidan Coleman is excited to renew his partnership with Epatante in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle this weekend.
The 32-year-old has been called up to ride last season’s Champion Hurdle winner in the Grade One prize after her regular rider, Barry Geraghty, announced his retirement from the saddle over the summer.
Having scored aboard the Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old on her return 12 months ago in the Gerry Feilden at Newbury, Coleman hopes the pair can achieve the same result on Saturday.
Coleman said: “It was great to have had the privilege of riding her once last season and sending her on her way. Now Barry Geraghty is retired, it is great to get back on her.
“I’ve ridden out for Nicky for a couple of years now and we’ve had plenty of winners together, but I’ve not had a lot of rides as Nicky has got his jockeys.
“I’m on the team sheet somewhere there and I get the call up every now and then.
“It’s great to ride for a trainer of his calibre and it is great to get the ride. I feel very privileged.”
Epatante had plenty to prove on her comeback last year, having been a beaten favourite in the Grade Two mares’ novices’ hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but Coleman was confident she had the ability to climb the ranks.
He said: “I think we all thought she could go to the next level. If you rewind it six months back before that, she was nearly a banker for the Cheltenham Festival and whatever happened that day, she didn’t run her race.
“If she had run her race that day, there was no way she would have been lining up in the Gerry Feilden, but these things happen in racing.
“When she won the Gerry Feilden, she won that well and it still looked like she was progressing. It was no surprise to see her do what she did.”
Despite Epatante being one of the lowest-rated winners of the Champion Hurdle in the past 10 years, Coleman, who finished down the field in the race on Gumball, believes that should not take anything away from the victory.
He said: “Gumball is a front-runner a lot of the time and he was content to sit there, so the speed was on.
“It didn’t ride like a sub-standard Champion Hurdle by any means. There are vintage Champion Hurdles and good Champion Hurdles and time will tell what is what.
“There is no such thing as a bad one, I can guarantee you that.”
Assessing the potential opposition Epatante could face at the weekend, Coleman hopes the Hughie Morrison-trained Not So Sleepy takes up his engagement to ensure the race is run at a true pace.
He added: “It looks like it will be a competitive enough race, with the likes of Silver Streak and last year’s winner Cornerstone Lad in there.
“With Not So Sleepy in there, it looks like there could be a bit of pace. Hopefully it will be a true-run race and the best horse will win.”
Twenty-four hours earlier, Coleman will bid to claim back-to-back victories aboard Paisley Park in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
The Emma Lavelle-trained eight-year-old will be making his first start since suffering an odds-on defeat when attempting to defend his Stayers’ Hurdle crown at the Festival.
Coleman said: “He looks and feels great at home. I schooled him last week and he seems really up for it.
“It is great to see him back. It will be great to see him have a better experience than he did at Cheltenham and what will be will be after that.”
With Paisley Park subsequently found to have an irregular heartbeat after his latest defeat, Coleman is keeping his fingers crossed the issue was a one-off.
He said: “Cheltenham didn’t go to plan, which is a shame, but these things happen when you are dealing with animals.
“He didn’t have a good time in the Stayers’ and we don’t want that to have an impact on his career going forwards.
“I just hope he has a good time and runs well and gives us something to go forward on – whether that is winning or running well in defeat.”