Constitution Hill: Has he done all there is to be achieved as a hurdler?
Constitution Hill: Has he done all there is to be achieved as a hurdler?

Will Constitution Hill be sent chasing following Thursday's Aintree Hurdle win?

Has Constitution Hill run his last race over hurdles following his comfortable win at Aintree on Thursday? Our man at the track argues the case for the switch to fences.

White silks, black cap, not a lot to look at physically; the deceptively deadly Constitution Hill is the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing – his true nature only really revealed by his actions on a racecourse.

GOAT has a much better ring to it, of course – though nobody dare suggest he can scale anything quite like the dizzy heights of Arkle, say.

There’s no debate Michael Buckley’s pride and joy is the best hurdler we’ve seen for several decades, but what does he need to achieve to become one of the greatest National Hunt horses of all time?

It seems almost ludicrous to suggest that even being possible about a horse with just seven career starts to his name to this point, but the Timeform ‘p’ attached to his 177 rating underlines the notion we’ve still yet to see the beast within fully unleashed on track, and on the face of it Thursday’s Aintree Hurdle appeared to hammer it home, as he coasted in by three lengths from Sharjah.

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Like many other jumps fans around the world, I’m convinced it will never quite happen if he remains over hurdles for the rest of his life in training.

Other than the highly unlikely development of another freak of nature coming along at the same time (I don’t see it on the horizon, do you?) to truly push Constitution Hill onto that higher plain in pure form terms, he’ll remain just below former two-mile stars Night Nurse (182), Istabraq (180), Monksfield (180) and Persian War (179).

The answer is blindingly obvious: in the current era, this horse has completed hurdling.

Naturally, he could go on to win multiple Champion Hurdles at Cheltenham, Christmas Hurdles at Kempton, plus more Aintree Hurdles and Stayers' Hurdles too no doubt; he could go to Leopardstown and win the Irish Champion; he could even travel for the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil in France. Why not?

Some have privately suggested to me (half in jest, I assume) that Nicky Henderson should run Constitution Hill in next year’s Betfair Hurdle and achieve something truly great in the guise of a weight-carrying handicap performance at Newbury.

But the world of chasing surely awaits and it’s now time for connections to be bold, be brave and map a route back from the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Nicky Henderson reiterated on Merseyside that “distance won’t matter to him” so, when it comes to Constitution Hill potentially ditching the next three Champion Hurdles for a switch to fences, then why aim for any other race?

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Although in light of Shishkin’s victory in the Bowl half an hour before his near neighbour took to the stage - immediately sparking King George and Gold Cup chat for him next term - we may have to show a bit of patience as the younger stablemate will likely be given all the time he needs.

Others will clamber for a meteoric rise to the top table with Constitution Hill, but I’m not one who would bang the drum for him to run in a Gold Cup as a novice, something the Bradstocks successfully pulled off with Coneygree in 2015.

Thistlecrack famously won the King George as a novice for the Tizzards too, but he was making his 18th start under Rules and, more importantly, I wouldn’t expect Henderson and Buckley (though no spring chickens themselves, I hope that's fair to say) to be too hasty.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase en route, however, would obviously be hugely exciting.

So, here it is... we all need a long-term plan and if you're striving for greatness then those plans may initially look quite daunting, borderline unrealistic. Here’s one for Constitution Hill, working back from the ultimate goal at Prestbury Park on Friday March 14, 2025:

  • Cheltenham Gold Cup, Cheltenham - March 2025
  • King George VI Chase, Kempton - December 2024
  • 1965 Chase, Ascot - November 2024
  • Melling Chase, Aintree – April 2024
  • Queen Mother Champion Chase, Cheltenham - March 2024
  • Game Spirit Chase, Newbury - February 2024
  • Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, Sandown – December 2023
  • Novice chase of choice – November 2023

Now a perfect seven from seven over hurdles, the above sequence would give him the opportunity to take that tally to 15, and he’d still only be eight.

Let’s all hope this schooling session in two weeks’ time goes according to plan.

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