Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1)

CONSTITUTION Hill (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville) made short work of his opposition as he cruised to a 17-length win over stablemate Epatante (Aidan Coleman) the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

The 1/7 favourite had previously beaten her by a dozen lengths in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and stretched that advantage here despite being asked no serious question by his jockey, with the winner drawing away in the style of a truly exceptional hurdler, the only thing to criticise being the smallest of errors at the penultimate hurdle.

Jumping has been one of the hallmarks of Constitution Hill’s wins, and he was foot-perfect at the final obstacle to cement his place as a red-hot Champion Hurdle favourite.

The question which arose post-race was where he would run next, with Nicky Henderson bemoaning the loss of the pointless Contenders Hurdle at Sandown and suggesting that there was no suitable prep race for the Champion Hurdle.

“Nico says Ireland,” he said, laughing, as if the thought of running Constitution Hill at Leopardstown in February was the stuff of fever dreams, but admitted that if he didn’t go to the Irish Champion, there was a strong chance that he would not be seen in a race before the Cheltenham Festival. What would Monksfield think?

Paisley Park raises the roof with stellar display

Ladbrokes Long Walk Hurdle (Grade 1)

THE Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle was transferred from the lost meeting at Ascot and that rescheduling allowed the popular veteran Paisley Park (Emma Lavelle/Aidan Coleman) to gain a third victory in the three-mile event.

As usual, Paisley Park got outpaced when the race began in earnest in the home straight, but he stayed on much better than Goshen or Champ to win by four and a half lengths for a result which was hugely popular among those watching in the stands or at home.

It was a concern that the sharper track would count against the 9/2 winner, but in the end the race was set up for him with neither of the placed pair really seeing things out, for all Goshen appeared to stay the trip by eventually passing the hanging Champ late on.

The winner would probably have got the better of a close finish with Champ at Newbury but for failing to jump fluently in the straight, and he retains much of his old ability, for all it takes a little longer for him to find top gear these days.

Champ typically travelled best, but didn’t always deliver when Jonjo Jr saw a stride, and the way he hung left after the last was disconcerting.

Thyme Hill rewards faith

Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

THYME Hill (Philip Hobbs/Tom O’Brien) failed to jump with any confidence when beaten by McFabulous (Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden) at Newbury on his chase debut but fitted with cheekpieces, he looked transformed as he easily reversed that form, rewarding backers at odd of 11/2.

McFabulous didn’t jump so well on softer ground as he had at Newbury, but he was better than stablemate Gelino Bello who fell, or market mover Galia de Liteaux, who badly misjudged a number of fences before dropping out of contention. He led into the straight, but Thyme Hill didn’t waste time in the air as he had on his debut and loomed up menacingly four from home before outstaying his main rival in tacky conditions.

The winning margin was 15 lengths and while this race was run to suit the winner, he was impressive and fully justified his trainer’s decision to try headgear rather than revert to hurdles.