Those who had the good fortune to be among the tens of thousands of spectators who attended the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in early March were in for a memorable evening.
Constitution Hill, while dominating the prestigious race, subsequently cemented his position as one of the most remarkable jump horses in history. Conquering the Champion Hurdle on the inaugural day of the festival, he lived up to the enormous expectations; Constitution Hill has continually outperformed the competition despite having competed in only seven races (twice since Cheltenham).
The big question that lingers on horse racing fans’ minds is, “Can he achieve back-to-back Cheltenham titles?”
Constitution Hill: A Special Kind of Horse
Throughout Constitution Hill’s first seven starts, not a single opponent has elicited the least amount of concern from him. The six-year-old, who Nicky Henderson trains, is an early favourite to defend his crown at the Cheltenham Festival 2024 next year, and major hitters will be placing five-figure and six-figure wagers. However formidable a heavy favourite may appear on paper, it is still necessary for it to perform admirably on turf.
Michael Buckley, the proprietor of Constitution Hill, has an extensive background in the racing industry, having begun his career as a racegoer and wagerer before transitioning to owner. When he was an adolescent, he recalls placing a wager on Mill House, another heavy favourite at Cheltenham, and losing to Arkle in the 1964 Gold Cup. However, he cannot think of anything comparable to this.
It was Constitution Hill’s third start of his career, the last being in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival in 2022. That performance solidified his status as an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime talent. Nico de Boinville’s mount, following a fast pace established by two elite opponents, overtook them in the straight and led by 22 lengths at the finish line. A couple of hours later, he completed the two-mile distance in five and a half seconds less time than the previous Champion Hurdle victor, Honeysuckle – an equivalence of at least twenty lengths. More impressively, he accomplished everything with the appearance as though he was scarcely out of second gear.
Since the early 1960s, the Timeform rating organisation has regarded jump horses. This performance alone positioned him among the all-time hurdling greats in their ranks.
The following month, Constitution Hill easily won the Aintree Hurdle over 2m 4f, bringing his dazzling record to nine victories from nine starts under Rules. A juvenile legend in the making will return for the season on December 2 in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and he’ll be one of thirteen horses entered for the race.
In the summer, the Seven Barrows team, led by owner Michael Buckley, decided to retain their outstanding six-year-old over hurdles. He won the 2022 Fighting Fifth by twelve lengths and will again begin his season in the northeast. The team will be keen to replicate that success in the 2023 edition of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, in which Constitution Hill won effortlessly upon his return to the track after arriving in Newcastle as the reigning champion.
Henderson has previously stated that his unbeaten star will adequately prepare for this. Although the 2024 Champion Hurdle will be a priority in the spring, Constitution Hill will be striving to begin his campaign with a victory. From a paper perspective, the task at hand appears to be relatively uncomplicated.
Before Cheltenham: Newcastle
In December, when Constitution Hill makes his seasonal return to Newcastle for the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, he may encounter as many as twelve opponents.
Unbeaten under rules, Nicky Henderson’s gelding is the undisputed divisional hero in hurdling, having won all seven of his starts, including six Grade Ones, thus making him a continuous favourite with valuable Cheltenham offers available in the UK.
Before departing for a summer vacation, he was last observed claiming back-to-back victories at the major spring meetings, having won the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Aintree Hurdle over two and a half miles.
Despite deliberating on and ultimately deciding against a transition to chasing, the six-year-old will continue along a familiar path in the division by commencing his career in the Fighting Fifth, a race he won by a margin of 12 lengths in the previous year.
Constitution Hill: Worthy Opponents
Due to the diminished presence of British opposition (his closest rival Epatante has since retired), he is probable to approach Cheltenham like last year, with the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle serving as clear Grade 1 objectives.
It is highly probable that if Constitution Hill is defeated this season, it will be at the hands of an Irish opponent, most likely affiliated with the Willie Mullins stable.
State Man, who has finished each of his starts for Mullins except his loss in the Champion Hurdle to Constitution Hill, is arguably still his finest hurdler. Although he demonstrated his superiority over the competition and likely deserves to have won at least two of the last five Champion Hurdles, he still needs to make up nine lengths with Constitution Hill.
Last season, Impaire Et Passe emerged as arguably the most remarkable novice hurdle victor at the festival. In all honesty, his lack of exposure makes him the horse most likely to secure the victory at Constitution Hill. However, since no 2m hurdler has been superior in over two decades, it is improbable that Impaire Et Passe is that excellent. However, he adds a degree of intrigue to the division.
While State Man and Constitution Hill require Vauban to regain their former form, he has been an absolute revelation on the Flat this season. Since he is only five years old, he may be making progress.
Conclusion: Constitution Hill Champion Hurdle Winner 2024?
Almost certainly, if Constitution Hill maintains its form from the previous season, the remaining teams will be contending for second place at Cheltenham in 2024. However, in racing, such matters are rarely straightforward.
This is a submitted article