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What will Henderson do with elite horse Constitution Hill?

Constitution Hill produced one of the most dominant performances in the history of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival. Nicky Henderson’s charge was named the favorite for the event and expectations were high for the horse amid rumors about his potential on the track.

With Nico de Boinville in the saddle, Constitution Hill did not disappoint as he blew away a talented field with a surge down the stretch. He and his stable-mate Jonbon were competing for the win, but not even the French thoroughbred could match his pace as Constitution Hill cantered over the line to claim the first win of the week by astounding 22 lengths.

Henderson was expected to press his charge into action for one final race in the 2021/22 campaign against Honeysuckle in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle. Honeysuckle was one of the locks of the 2022 Cheltenham betting odds in her own event, the Champion Hurdle, and delivered a special performance to take the crown. She has already been installed as the favorite in the Cheltenham tips for the 2023 Champion Hurdle given her pedigree. However, the arrival of Constitution Hill on the scene was poised to throw a spanner into the works at Punchestown, only for Henderson to withdraw his charge before the event.

Constitution Hill will break for the summer and will likely not be in action until at least October. Henderson will be aiming to be as careful as possible with his charge before deciding whether to leave him over hurdles or push him towards a career as a chaser. Henderson has tended to guide his elite charges towards the chasing with Shishkin and Altior establishing dominant reputations on the National Hunt.

Altior swept up all the major chasing crowns at two miles during his illustrious career, and Shishkin was seemingly on the same path before he underwhelmed in the Champion Chase, with a rare bone condition being cited as the reason for being pulled up.

Given that Henderson also has Jonbon in his ranks, he may press the French thoroughbred as a chaser and towards the Arkle Chase in 2023 even after he finished his term on a high note at Aintree with a victory in the Top Novices’ Hurdle.

Constitution Hill may be allowed to remain over hurdles and pursue a showdown with Honeysuckle in the 2022/23 campaign. He appears to have all the characteristics required to be a success given the quality of his victory to challenge Henry de Bromhead’s charge. However, Henderson cannot afford to be too cautious with his horse. Willie Mullins’ Appreciate It enjoyed an even stronger performance than Constitution Hill in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2021, winning the race by 24 lengths ahead of Ballyadam.

Injuries prevented Mullins from placing his horse into action over the course of the National Hunt campaign, and he arrived at Cheltenham in 2022 without a race since his victory at the venue a year prior. It was clear that Appreciate It was off the pace and he finished seventh in the Champion Hurdle, nine-and-a-quarter lengths behind Honeysuckle.

It is a cautionary tale for Henderson, but more often than not he has been a perfect judge of his elite talent. The 70-year-old has the experience and nous when to press his charges and when to allow them to develop at their own pace. Next season could see Henderson secure an array of top crowns with Constitution Hill as the driving force.

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