Just four weeks on from his dominating display in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, winning the day one feature race at a canter from the rest of the field to once again reaffirm his status as the best thoroughbred in the United Kingdom and Ireland right now, Constitution Hill is being primed for another rip-roaring performance to round off his fantastic campaign.
All being well, the frightening six-year-old will head to Merseyside for the Grand National Festival in mid-April — where he is as short as 1/4 in the Aintree Hurdle betting odds in what would incredibly be the Nicky Henderson-trained horse’s sixth Grade 1 success in just seven starts under rules.
It’s remarkable what Constitution Hill has achieved thus far in his career and talk of the Michael Buckley-owned horse going for the unthinkable Champion Hurdle/Gold Cup double — which only Dawn Run has ever achieved — has sparked debate with jumps racing fans over what next season could hold, but also have them very excited.
He has to get through the Aintree Hurdle first though. The 2m4f affair should be another run-of-the-mill outing for Constitution Hill, with plenty of distance between him and the rest of the field at the finish, so let’s take a look at some of the challengers who could be vying for second in Merseyside.
With Henderson previously stating that Constitution Hill’s stablemate Epatante could head to Punchestown for Ireland’s lucrative end-of-season meet instead of travelling up to Merseyside for the Aintree Hurdle, Zanahiyr looks set to be the six-year-old’s biggest rival in the betting at a huge 8/1.
The now six-year-old has a promising start to life when switched to Gordon Elliott’s yard in 2020, winning three races in his juvenile season — including at Grade 3 and 2 level. However, he has never really lived up to that potential since, winning just once in his last 12 starts under rules.
Zanahiyr is perhaps unlucky that he has had to compete with the likes of Sharjah, Honeysuckle and now Constitution Hill in the hurdling division, however. He was 13 lengths behind in third in the Champion Hurdle, so if he is to be the nearest rival this is going to be a fairly easy win for Constitution Hill’s connections.
I Like To Move It
Behind Zanahiyr in the betting, you’ll find I Like To Move It someway back at 20/1. The Nigel Twiston-Davies horse has five wins in 10 outings over hurdles, including two this season in a Premier Handicap at Cheltenham in November and again by 17 lengths in the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton in February.
However, the six-year-old was entirely outclassed in the Champion Hurdle at Prestbury Park — finishing sixth of seven runners and some 34 lengths behind Constitution Hill. Don’t expect him to get much closer when they meet again at Aintree.
Paul Nicholls’ leading claim, Knappers Hill is another 20/1 shot for the Aintree Hurdle. The seven-year-old started his season well under Team Ditcheat’s number one rider Harry Cobden, winning back-to-back races in October and November — most notably the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
However, he hasn’t been able to keep with the competition at that level since. Knappers Hill was fourth and 14 lengths behind Marie’s Rock in the Reelkeel at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and a distant second to I Like To Move in that aforementioned outing at Wincanton. He was disappointing on his last day as well, finishing third of five in the National Spirit Hurdle despite being set off at the 7/4F.