We’ve known for some time now that Nicky Henderson has a serious talent on his hands in the form of Constitution Hill. The Michael Buckley-owned horse really burst on to the scene in the 2022 renewal of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, winning the two-mile and half-a-furlong affair by 22 lengths from stablemate Jonbon and in record fashion with a time of 3m 34.35s.
Honeysuckle’s second victory in the Champion Hurdle later on day one of the meeting had punters rubbing their hands at the prospect of Constitution Hill and Henry de Bromhead’s prized mare going head-to-head in this year’s renewal of the Championship contest. However, it became apparent as the season passed and Honeysuckle went winless in two successive races that she would be no match for the Henderson-trained horse.
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And while many pundits and punters alike were disappointed by the fact Honeysuckle’s connection’s decided to reroute her to the Mares’ Hurdle for her swansong, there is absolutely no doubt left in anyone’s mind that she wouldn’t have given Constitution Hill a run for his money in the Champion Hurdle.
The six-year-old travelled strongly and was prominent from the off in the two-mile, half-a-furlong affair. He was leading and going easily three out before stretching over the last to leave punters with their hearts in their mouths, but he streaked clear up the hill to win by nine lengths from Willie Mullins’ State Man.
With talk already spiraling of Constitution Hill being one of the greatest thoroughbreds of all time, it’s easy to forget that he is just six years of age and the Champion Hurdle was just his sixth start under rules. Speculation is already rife about what he will do next season, but for now it looks like he will have at least one more crack over the hurdles.
Henderson has confirmed that the Aintree Hurdle is set to be Constitution Hill’s next port of call, and there’s no doubt that he will go off as the short-priced favourite to win the Grade 1 contest if you’re looking for a bet on Grand National Festival. The beauty of the six-year-old is that regardless of his odds, plenty will tune in just to watch him in all of his might and not just from a betting perspective.
From there though, Buckley and Henderson will have plenty to talk about over the off-season. There appears to be three main options. The first is remaining over the smaller obstacles and going for back-to-back Champion Hurdles, which seems perfectly plausible. The second is going novice chasing and attempting to win the likes of the Arkle and so on, which seems pointless.
The boldest move would be option three, which would see Constitution Hill skip a season novice chasing and going for the jugular — the Gold Cup. Dawn Run is the only horse to ever complete the Champion Hurdle-Gold Cup double in the mid-1980s, but Constitution Hill surely has enough about to replicate that incredible feat and a bout with Galopin Des Champs in the Blue Riband would be one to savour.
Speaking on what’s next for Constitution Hill, 77-year-old Buckley has stated that his goal would be to emulate the great Dawn Run — saying: “No decision has been made about what he’ll do in the future but if he’s as proficient at jumping fences as he is hurdles, then my ambition would be to equal what Dawn Run did and try to win a Gold Cup. There’s a hell of a lot of water to cover from here to doing that, but that would be the ambition.”