Unibet Champion Hurdle

Challenge Trophy (Grade 1)

HE may have only made six appearances over hurdles in his less than two-year career, but Constitution Hill went a long way to solidifying his reputation as one of the greatest hurdlers of the modern era – or potentially any era – with a demolition job in the Unibet Champion Hurdle.

His winning margin of nine lengths over Irish Champion Hurdle winner State Man was the smallest he’s recorded so far under rules, but it was clear from some way out that the Nicky Henderson-trained star was in a completely different league to his rivals under Nico de Boinville.

Barring an early take-off at the final flight when well clear, there were barely any anxious moments for his supporters at odds of 4/11 - the shortest-priced Champion Hurdle winner of all time. Michael Buckley’s six-year-old was nothing short of spectacular.

“He has had six races now and has barely come off the bridle,” said an emotional Henderson after winning a record-extending ninth win in the race.

“Sprinter Sacre did amazing things for us and the emotion behind him for his comeback was unbelievable. This horse has got into those echelons after six races. It is an extraordinary thing to happen but he is an extraordinary horse. He is a freak. I said to Nico let’s keep it as simple as you possibly can, and he did.

“I have watery eyes, I always have had and I always will have, but that would bring a tear to most eyes when you see a horse quite like that as I think that is pretty unique. I had 12 months of anxious moments but that is our life. There is a brilliant team behind him and they have done fantastically well.”

Shutting out the noise

De Boinville was winning his first Champion Hurdle and is now just a Stayers’ Hurdle win away from completing the full house of feature-race victories at the Cheltenham Festival.

The 33-year-old believes Constitution Hill could easily develop into a top-class chaser if asked by connections to change tack over fences.

“I guess we don’t want to pigeon-hole him just as a hurdler. I think he’d be good over a fence,” said De Boinville.

“As racing fans, that’s what we want to see. I find in recent years horses have tended to get pigeon-holed too much, bar Faugheen. It could be interesting, and he’s still so young.

“The past year has been great. Obviously, you wanted to get through all the preliminary races and, in actual fact, two weeks before coming into this I decided to switch off [all media]. It was just white noise and it was just getting ridiculous, everyone was talking about it.

“We thought we’d just focus on ourselves and on what was going on at Seven Barrows. The team has done so well. I think he has proved to everyone what a fabulous racehorse he is.”

Gordon Elliott’s decision to run 66/1 shot Zanahiyr here instead of carrying top-weight in handicap company was vindicated when last year’s third past the post in the Champion Hurdle filled the same position, staying on from behind the reel in fourth-placed Vauban.