Defending champion Epatante and the mercurial talent that is No So Sleepy shared the honours after the judge called a dead-heat in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.
Nicky Henderson’s 2020 Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante made a brilliant reappearance in the Gosforth Park feature 12 months ago, but subsequent defeats at Kempton, Cheltenham and Punchestown meant she returned to Gosforth Park with a point to prove.
So too did the Hughie Morrison-trained Not So Sleepy, who showed his worst side when jinking violently right and unseating his rider at the first flight in last year’s renewal – carrying out the reopposing Silver Streak in the process.
Having undergone back surgery during the summer, Epatante was the 11/8 favourite to get back on the winning trail and provide Henderson with a record seventh Fighting Fifth success under Aidan Coleman.
Not So Sleepy, meanwhile, was an 18/1 shot in the hands of Jonathan Burke off the back of finishing second on the flat at Doncaster last month.
Epatante travelled with her customary zest for much of the two-mile journey and moved smoothly into contention from the home turn, but was made to fight for it by both Not So Sleepy and Sceau Royal.
To the naked eye, Henderson’s mare looked to have just got the better of Not So Sleepy in a driving finish passing the post, but the they could not be split in the photo.
The judge's verdict gave Jonathan Burke his first Grade 1 success in seven years.