Aidan Coleman steps in for the ride on returning Epatante

Champion Hurdle winner is odds-on to make a successful return to action at Newcastle

JP McManus’s Champion Hurdle winner Epatante is odds-on to make a successful return to action on Saturday.

The mare who gave her owner a record ninth Champion Hurdle victory at Cheltenham in March will face a maximum of nine rivals in the Betfair Fighting Fifth at Newcastle.

Barry Geraghty's retirement means Aidan Coleman steps in for the ride on Epatante, the Cork born jockey having partnered her to win at Newbury almost exactly a year ago.

Epatante is a general 4-7 favourite to get her season off to a successful start in a race where last year’s surprise winner Cornerstone Lad is set to defend his crown. Cornerstone Lad upset McManus’s hot-favourite Buvuer D’Air in 2019. The third that day, Silver Streak, could also line up this weekend.

However it is Sceau Royal, winner of the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las last time, who is rated a 6-1 second favourite by most firms.

Tuesday’s Irish action takes place at Punchestown where the stalwart banks performer Josies Orders is one of three McManus runners in the Ballymore Risk Of Thunder Chase.

Enda Bolger, who rode the Sean Connery owned Risk Of Thunder to some of his greatest victories around the banks course, saddles the McManus trio.

However local trainer Peter Maher numerically edges his rival with four starters and Jamie Codd looks a significant booking for the veteran Ballyboker Bridge.

Colreevy, the 2018 Champion Bumper winner at the 2018 Punchestown festival, lines up in a hot-looking novice chase where Thatsy will try to go one better than his last run at Galway.

Julies Stowaway can boast some high class bumper form and may be hard to beat in a maiden hurdle.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column

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