Constitution Hill primed to peak in Champion Hurdle assignment at Cheltenham
Nicky Henderson's unbeaten six-year-old has had this date with destiny circled on the calendar since leaving a packed house at Prestbury Park staggered with an imperious display in last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle. His outings this season have only added to anticipation surrounding his return to the Festival and Grade One contests throughout the season have simply been reduced to tasters building up to the big day. He brushed aside stablemate Epatante to win both the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle at a canter and Henderson finds it hard to argue with the evidence as racing's latest superstar prepares to headline the opening day. "You'd have to say he's been round the track and broken records, so he's done most things you'd want to see and he hasn't done anything wrong," said Henderson. "He's doing freakish things, but he's only had five runs in his life and you have to remember that it's very early days in his career. Normally when you're coming to a Champion Hurdle you're doing so on the back of between 10-12 races or something, so it's hard to gauge really apart from the fact he's done nothing wrong. "His racing brain is brilliant. You could go three miles with him because you'd just switch him off and put him to sleep and then wait until you get the right moment and press the button. It really is as simple as that."
See You Then helped put Henderson on the map with a hat-trick of Champion Hurdle victories in the 1980s and no man has won the race as many times as the master of Seven Barrows. However, it is easy to envisage that Constitution Hill could prove to be the best two-mile hurdler to have stepped foot in his Upper Lambourn base if providing him with victory number nine at Cheltenham on Tuesday and Henderson would love to reward the gelding's long-serving owner Michael Buckley. "It would be fantastic to win the Champion Hurdle for Michael Buckley," he continued. "He's been with me an awful long time and we've had great times together, both highs and lows. He's had a lot of good horses actually, but he's also had some horrible luck on the way with what were going to be good horses that didn't make it. "I thought Spirit Son was going to be a world beater and he sadly died from an accident while he was on holiday, so various things have gone right and wrong. "We've had some wonderful times with the likes of Finian's Rainbow and Brain Power, but this is an extraordinary animal. "His greatest asset is his head - not that it's the prettiest - but his whole mind game is brilliant." State Man won the County Hurdle with ease at the meeting 12 months ago and has quickly progressed into a top-level operator. He returns to the Cheltenham Festival as the Willie Mullins number one and second-favourite following his all-the-way success in the Irish Champion Hurdle. He has the perfect profile to lay down a serious challenge to the overwhelming race favourite, but Mullins is well aware of the task at hand. He said: "From everything he's shown us all the time and the way he's improving, we think he's good enough. "We're living the dream at the moment anyway. If you beat Honeysuckle around Leopardstown you'd normally be thinking there's only one more step to go, but Constitution Hill is there and a few more too. "Constitution Hill looks the full package. He's got speed, he can jump and he stays and he's going to be very tough to beat." The master of Closutton is also represented by Vauban who picked up the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival last year and was third behind State Man at Leopardstown last month. Improvement will be required to see him bridge the five-length gap with his stablemate, while the other Irish challenger in the seven-strong field is Gordon Elliott's Zanahiyr. Nigel Twiston-Davies' I Like To Move It has a fine record on the old course at Cheltenham - winning the Greatwood Hurdle there in the autumn. He was back to his best when tuning up with a wide-margin victory in Wincanton's Kingwell Hurdle, while the cast is complete by last year's fifth Not So Sleepy (Hughie Morrison) and Jason The Militant (Phil Kirby). READ MORE: Cheltenham day one tips: Best each-way bets for all seven races
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