Silver Streak upset odds-on favourite Epatante to spring a shock with an all-the-way win in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
Jockey Adam Wedge employed a significant change of tactics on Evan Williams' grey, and Silver Streak rose to the challenge – jumping accurately and running the finish out of this year’s Champion Hurdle heroine, who was sent off the 1-5 favourite but had to settle for second.
Epatante made one untimely error, at the third-last, as Aidan Coleman asked her to close down the winner – and although she managed to move within striking distance early in the straight, Silver Streak had plenty in reserve and surged clear again after the last to win by six and a half lengths.
The 13-2 victory was his first at Grade One level and recompense for misfortune at Newcastle in last month’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle, when he was carried out at the second flight by a loose Not So Sleepy, before Epatante won with ease there.
Williams, who was not at the Sunbury track, said: "There are lots of horses that people say deserve this and deserve that, but the reality is it is a tough old game and nobody deserves anything really – but that lad today, he is so genuine and because he is so genuine and tough he did deserve it.
"I was hoping he would be good enough one day, as I kept telling everybody, but to land it like he did does mean an awful lot to us really.
"The ground is a huge thing and I can't overemphasise that. He has been running some very good races in defeat on ground which isn’t what he wants, but he goes out there and does his best on it, even though he is not getting the purchase he needs.
"I said to Adam, who was riding here after schooling on Christmas Eve, that I want to make the running in the Christmas Hurdle. I said I don’t want to be second or third in a Christmas Hurdle, that means nothing to me. We either go a good gallop and finish last or we roll the dice and get something out of it.
"I had no ambition to be second or third in a Christmas Hurdle, I wanted to win one – and the only way I could see that was to ride him and go a very good gallop. I would say the jockey has played a blinder. I do think he is a Kempton horse, and if you look at his form around Kempton it is outstanding."
Nicky Henderson, meanwhile, will regroup with Epatante.
The Seven Barrows trainer said after saddling the winner of the closing race on the card: "I’ve had a chat with Aidan. She scoped clean, her heart is clean and she blew for 20 minutes which is spot-on normal. Twenty minutes is right, 15 minutes you’ve done nothing and 25 minutes you are not fit.
"Aidan said he wasn’t getting the same feel he did off her at Newcastle. I don’t think that was the ground – it was just one of those things that happened. There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with her."
Coleman said: "The winner deserved to win. The race went to plan, but just from turning in that burst of speed she has wasn’t there for some reason. She will be back. That made no difference (the mistake down the back)."
Last years runner up, Silver Streak denies last years winner Epatante in the @Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle! @EWilliamsRacing the winning trainer and a double on the card for winning jockey @Adamkwedge pic.twitter.com/gxQFC9hXCx— Kempton Park Racecourse (@kemptonparkrace) December 26, 2020
Shan Blue (7-4F) extended his unbeaten sequence over fences with a decisive victory in the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices' Chase.
Dan Skelton’s six-year-old was winning his third race in succession since beginning his chasing career this season, being up with the pace throughout and often jumping with great fluency to prevail by three and three-quarter lengths from The Big Breakaway.
Shan Blue, ridden by the trainer’s brother Harry, was just a length in front at the last so needed another good jump – and duly got one, while runner-up The Big Breakaway made a mistake and stumbled on landing.
Shan Blue then stayed on impressively – with If The Cap Fits, who had struggled to stay in touch early on, rallying late to snatch third.