Constitution Hill is certainly not alone among Nicky Henderson’s superstar horses to have started their careers on a Point-to-Point course. Shishkin, for example, ran point-to-point races at Inch and Lingstown before becoming one of the best middle-distance chasers we have seen this decade. But the rapid rise of Constitution Hill has caught the eye for a variety of reasons.
Constitution Hill leaving his rivals trailing by miles. The horse has had a rapid rise, and his career started on a P2P course. Photo via https://twitter.com/RoadCheltenham/status/1592523168035794945/photo/1
For a start, there were just 325 days between his Pointing debut at Tipperary in April 2021 and his stunning victory in the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham the following March. Other horses have gone to Cheltenham less than a year after pointing before – Irish mare Honeysuckle springs to mind – but even the two-time Champion Hurdle winner had to grind her way into the spotlight. Constitution Hill has burst onto the scene in style.
That Pointing debut saw Constitution Hill suffer the only defeat of his short career so far, beaten by a head by Anyharminasking. Since then, every race so far has seen victory by 12 lengths or more. In the Supreme last year, the 22-length victory was all the more impressive due to the field: Jonbon, Dysart Dynamo, Kilcruit, and Mighty Potter all looked like potential Supreme winners before the race, but Constitution Hill simply blew them out of the water.
Now we have the eye-catching scenario where Henderson is gunning for the Champion Hurdle. The horse racing odds will tell you that the money is following the momentum – Constitution Hill is as short as 1/3 for the feature race on Champion Day. That’s quite the vote of confidence with a couple of months to go until race day. Even the 2022 and 2021 dual winner Honeysuckle is out with the washing in the betting.
It remains to be seen whether this will all lead to a mouth-watering matchup with Honeysuckle. The mare, who won the Champion Hurdle in 2021 and 2022, was somewhat off the pace in her seasonal reappearance in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle in Fairyhouse in December. There have been rumours that she might be aimed at the Mares’ Hurdle instead of going for a Champion Hurdle hat trick. Odds of 10/1 would suggest that bookies think she will be aimed elsewhere, but they are also a reflerction of the interest in the favourite. And don't forget Henderson has Epatante for the Mares race, a former Champion hurdler herself.
While we might not get the match-up we want, there will be plenty of stiff competition for Constitution Hill. Top of the contenders must be the very useful State Man, who was so impressive in winning the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown just before the turn of the year. Others who might have an interest include Vauban, who lost out to State Man in the Matheson. Both horses are trained by Willie Mullins, and the wily Irishman might split his aces, but having either in the race looks like a clear and present danger for Constitution Hill.
And yet, this feels like one of those events where the only horse that truly matters is the favourite. If Constitution Hill runs his race, or performs at the level he has done in every rules race so far in his career, he will blitz the competition – there is no doubt about that. He could become the new king of Cheltenham less than two years after battling into second place in a low-key P2P race fixture. Many horses have gone on a similar trajectory before, but few have had quite a meteoric rise.
It's all grist to the mill of those among us who say you can spot a future champion before he or she hits the headlines at our country Point-to-Points. Be there, and see a champion cut their teeth.