Cheltenham Festival 2024: Can Anything Stop Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle?
There were a whole host of huge performances at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival but none more so than in the two-mile hurdling ranks.
One horse dominates the division to such an extent that according to the Cheltenham odds he’ll only need to turn up in next year’s race to win it again.
For many, Constitution Hill needed to go and do it in a championship race if he was to live up to the hype surrounding his career.
There can be no such doubts now and there are seemingly no limits to what this horse might be able to achieve, so much so that owner Michael Buckley has already touted the appeal of winning a Gold Cup with this machine of a horse.
And therein lies the problem for anyone wanting to smash into Constitution Hill for next year’s Champion Hurdle.
He’s a top-price 6/4 with betting apps and, if connections stick to the smaller obstacles for another season and this horse continues on his current trajectory, then Constitution Hill will almost certainly go off at least half that price in the 2024 Champion Hurdle.
How Good Was Constitution Hill’s 2023 Champion Hurdle Win?
It is rare to see a horse win a big race without being fully extended but it’s almost unheard of in a championship race at the Cheltenham Festival.
Constitution Hill is so far ahead of the current crop of two-milers that he was able to draw nine lengths of runner-up State Man without Nico de Boinville having to break sweat on his back.
That’s the same State Man that has won three Grade 1 races this season, including the Irish Champion Hurdle by almost five lengths, who is generally regarded as the best hurdler in Ireland and is an 7/1 chance with betting sites to win next year's edition.
The only fleeting moment of concern for Constitution Hill fans came at the last when the six-year-old took off a stride too soon, which could easily have ended in disaster, but thankfully he made it to the other side.
Surprisingly, a Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 177 effectively rates the Champion hurdle performance only 1lb higher than that of his Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle performance at Newcastle in November, but the reality is that there isn’t a two-mile hurdler capable of pushing Constitution Hill towards that monster rating, and that’s not his fault.
Of course, that might not be the case in 2024 because both Impaire Et Passe and Marine Nationale look top-class novices who could easily prove better than State Man in time.
It is the emergence of those top Irish novices, both impressive winners at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, that means next year’s two-mile hurdle division is potentially much more exciting than this year’s proved to be.
Ultimately, the youngsters have their work cut out if they are going to be able to stop Constitution Hill.
So, What Route Could Constitution Hill Take If He Went Chasing?
The problem with Constitution Hill going chasing, if there is one, is that connections will likely want to take the ‘safe’ novice route, which would feel to many like a waste of a season given his undoubted class.
Assuming he jumps proficiently, the chances are we will just end up watching him trounce rivals in novice races en route to the Arkle, for which he is a 7/4 shot with horse racing betting sites.
That would feel like a bit of an ante-climax for a horse with so much talent. Novices don’t tend to run in the Champion Chase but if any horse should be pitched into the championship contest in his first season over fences, then surely it is Constitution Hill.
This is, of course, all hypothetical but the following season connections could then step him up in trip as they build towards a Gold Cup tilt and a potentially mouth-watering clash with Galopin Des Champs, assuming he is still on the scene.
As most people know, Dawn Run is the only horse ever to win a Champion Hurdle and a Gold Cup, but Constitution Hill could be the horse to match that feat.
There doesn’t seem to be any doubt about his ability to stay, he did after all run in a Tipperary point, which he would have won had he not made a mistake at the last fence.
Michael Buckley and Nicky Henderson are in an envious position in that whatever route they take with Constitution Hill, the chances are he’s going to end up one of the sport’s legends no matter what.
We know State Man isn’t good enough to get near him so if connections decide to stick to hurdles for one more season, then it will be down to this season’s star novices Impaire Et Passe and Marine Nationale to try and stop him winning at a third successive Cheltenham festival.
They need to be every bit as good as connections think they are, and then some, if they are going to beat the mighty Constitution Hill in the 2024 Champion Hurdle.
He’s as close to unbeatable as any horse most of us have ever seen.
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