Constitution Hill simply magnificent in Unibet Champion Hurdle cruise
Constitution Hill lit up day one of the Cheltenham Festival as he took the Unibet Champion Hurdle crown in sublime style.
This race had been seen as the six-year-old’s date with destiny ever since romping to victory in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 12 months ago – and Nicky Henderson’s charge did not disappoint, much to the delight of a packed Prestbury Park crowd.
Sent off at odds of 4-11, jockey Nico de Boinville was keen to keep things simple and had the Michael Buckley-owned winner tracking I Like To Move It, who was setting the fractions.
Travelling with supreme ease, Constitution Hill’s super-slick hurdling saw him breeze to the front after three out and De Boinville was simply nudging his mount forwards as he drew clear of the chasing back rounding the turn for home.
He was soon sauntering up the hill with victory from the Willie Mullins-trained State Man secured, and De Boinville was able to turn to the crowd and milk the applause as Constitution Hill in a canter.
Victory saw De Boinville join an illustrious role of honour to have won the Festival’s three biggest prizes, while Constitution Hill crushed the trends to become the first horse since dual race winner Bula’s first Champion Hurdle triumph in 1971 to follow up victory in the Supreme Novices Hurdle.
For Henderson, he added Champion Hurdle number nine to his illustrious CV and there is every chance this could be the best of the lot to step foot in Seven Barrows.
“I’ve got watery eyes, I always have and I always will have, but that will bring tears to most eyes when you see a horse that is like that because I think it’s pretty unique,” he said.
“I’ve had 12 months of anxious moments, but that is our life and the closer it gets the more anxious you get. Have we done this and have we done that, but there is a brilliant team behind it all and they have been fantastic.
“We all know the last few weeks are horrible, I hope I haven’t been too bad but they have been absolutely brilliant.
“Only one of these horses come along in a lifetime. You can’t get a horse like this if you only have one horse, you have to have a lot of horses to find one of these and we are lucky.
“I think it is extraordinary that is just the sixth race of his life and he’s doing that now. We had some wonderful days here with Sprinter Sacre, in particular his comeback Champion Chase, that was about as unique as it got – but this horse is going to extraordinary levels at the moment.
“We are very lucky to be the custodians of this horse, but then the trouble is the responsibility that comes with that.”
When asked if Constitution Hill was the best he had trained, Henderson said: “We’ll sleep on that one. They always say you should never paint a horse until he’s retired. It took me a long time before I would say Sprinter was better than say See You Then, but I had to admit it in the end. Altior was another great horse.
“We’ve just been very lucky, but this looks totally unique – he’s just so unflappable. I went to see him last night and fed him a pocket full of carrots and then Jaydon (Lee, stable lad) went to give him another ton of carrots but nothing worries him, he just ate them.
“I was saying you need to be eating something that is good for you, not carrots – you’re not racing in the dark!”
De Boinville said: “Constitution Hill’s jumping took me there all the time and I just used the hills to fill him up again.
“I didn’t see one (a stride) at the last, but he did – I had visions of Annie Power! Thankfully, he knows better than me. He was foot-perfect everywhere.
“For the last two weeks I just decided to switch off all the white noise as it was just ridiculous – everybody was talking about it.
“The guv’nor had him in great order and I think he’s proved to everyone what a fabulous racehorse he is.”
He added: “On a personal level, it’s been a dream of mine to get the big three and I’m delighted I’ve achieved it."