There’s a larger theme among those lucky enough to cross paths with Constitution Hill: He’s not normal.
His trainer Nicky Henderson goes so far as to say that the Champion Hurdle used to be ‘amazing’, describing his performance at home this week as ‘frightening’.
After dominating the pre-season last season, taking two Group One titles including one of the Cheltenham Festival’s most memorable victories in the recently-remembered Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, all eyes will be back on the five-year-old as he begins the new campaign. The Coral Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Racing.
Henderson has seen it all and is no stranger to the stars, having lifted the Champion Hurdle crown a record eight times with five different horses, yet the Seven Barrows maestro is still in awe.
Asked how Constitution Hill compared to the Champion Hurdle winners, Henderson told Sky Sports Racing: “Well, you could say he’s doing a lot of stupid things.
“During the summer we were asking ourselves: ‘Can this really be true or is it a joke?’
“The top one last year was just crazy and the stats helped: Time and distance. All that said it wasn’t a fluke.”
The history of horse and trainer lives on as Ascot approaches.
Their every step on the road to the Champion Hurdle, in which Constitution Hill is already short as 6/5 favourite, will be scrutinized and debated, but Henderson is relishing the challenge.
“Obviously there’s challenges but there’s also a lot of fun and that’s what keeps you going,” Henderson said.
They make your life easier. It’s like being on a pony at school half the time. He only survives by jumping. I’ve never heard anything like it, it’s like riding a Flat horse
“He’s a wonderful man as you can see him walking on the pitch, you wouldn’t give him a sixpence because he looks like he’s sleeping. He eats and sleeps but he works.
“That’s one of his strengths. His mental game is very good and when he does his job, he just follows through and does it.”
Constitution Hill’s composure was evident from the outset, with former Champion Hurdle-winning jockey Barry Geraghty – who was given a job as a school helper at the age of three – feeling comfortable being his six-year-old son at the time. a daughter on a gelding’s back.
“I was calling Barry and saying: ‘For goodness sake, you told me he’s a good horse,'” Henderson said. “He’s not showing me anything!’ He said: ‘I promise you, I promise you!’
“One morning someone found a button that you have to press and we found out that they could pass the race with the same thing.
“When we say go, they go!”
‘I have no doubt that Energumene wants to come back’
Another horse that knows all about carrying the mantle as much as Henderson hopes Shishkinwho already won Supreme from 2020.
Sending off the fences of the 2020/21 campaign, the Joe and Marie Donnelly star won all five as novice chasers before adding last season’s Desert Orchid and Clarence House titles to his impressive CV.
The final race at Ascot produced one of the best of the year when Shishkin beat Willie Mullins’ Energumene in a thrilling race.
The pair met again in the much-anticipated Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March, but it all fell apart in front of Henderson when Shishkin was withdrawn after jumping just eight fences.
“It seemed strange because we thought he was good the day before but the next day he was so bad, you couldn’t tell which leg he was on,” Henderson said. “They found five hot spots.
“I have no doubt that Energumene is hoping for a repeat.
“You have to call it 1-1 but I don’t think it happened because we were drawn in front of the fence so I don’t think Energumene can say they beat us.
“But, he [Shishkin] he needs to get back to his best and that will be a tall order. “
Like Constitution Hill, he is grounded and knows his job. He has his days where he throws a look and keeps you on your toes but I don’t care at all
After a successful start to his career as a chaser at Warwick on Wednesday, Henderson is hopeful Jonbon – second to Constitution Hill in the Supreme before his Grade 1 prize at Aintree – could follow in Shishkin’s footsteps.
He is now a 7/4 favorite for Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival, a race to be won by stablemate in 2021.
“He’s a beautiful horse,” Henderson said. “He’s very different from Constitution Hill because he has a lot of fun at the races.
It’s not that he’s aggressive, he just likes to do it by himself every morning. If you keep him in his routine, he is a happy horse and loves his job
In the same colors of the strong owner JP McManus, winner of the 2020 Champion Hurdle Amazing is set to make his return in the Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on November 26, live on Sky Sports Racing.
The eight-year-old took out the race in 2020 but shared the spoils last year after finishing in the heat with Hughie Morrison’s Not So Sleepy.
This counted as one of three Grade One wins last season when he took the Christmas prize at Kempton and the Aintree Hurdle over two and a half miles in April.
“He had a good year last year, winning two and a half Grade Ones if you consider the dead-heat in the Fighting Five,” Henderson said.
She is an absolute delight and it makes my day to come and ride her. Dare I say, I think he’s even better this year. He is back strong and has his confidence
“He was so good in two-and-a-half years at Aintree that he opens a few doors again this season.
“He’s doing really well. He’s a little bit of a problem, but he’s always been like that.”