Cheltenham Festival: Constitution Hill tops 12 in Champion Hurdle contention
Nicky Henderson's charge is widely regarded as the pre-eminent star of National Hunt racing and will be a red-hot favourite to extend his unbeaten record under rules to six in the Festival's day one feature.
The six-year-old won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle by 22 lengths on the corresponding card last season and has since proved that was no fluke with similarly devastating displays in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton this season. There are two previous winners of the race in the mix in the form of Epatante and Honeysuckle, but neither are expected to line up, with the familiar foes instead set clash in the Mares' Hurdle later in the afternoon. In their anticipated absence, the biggest threat to Constitution Hill appears to be Irish Champion Hurdle hero State Man. The Willie Mullins-trained chestnut has established himself as comfortably Ireland's leading hope this season by winning the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown and both the Matheson and Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown - dethroning Honeysuckle on the latter occasion. Mullins is also set to be represented by Vauban, who won the Triumph Hurdle at last year's Festival but has finished behind State Man in his last two races, while the veteran Sharjah also stood his ground. Henderson could saddle First Street, although like Sharjah he has the option of running in the County Hurdle later in the week. Gordon Elliott has left in both Zanahiyr and Pied Piper, while Greatwood and Kingwell Hurdle winner I Like To Move It has each-way claims for Nigel Twiston-Davies. The potential field is completed by Hughie Morrison's Not So Sleepy and Jason The Militant from Phil Kirby's yard.
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