Cheltenham Festival: Constitution Hill MUST be entered for the Champion Hurdle, the race could be up for grabs

SO why MUST – that's MUST MUST MUST – trainer Nicky Henderson and owner Michael Buckley enter banging novice Constitution Hill for the Champion Hurdle in March?

Well, here's why.

At the moment the season's crack hurdling event is pretty much a one horse betting heat, with defending title holder Honeysuckle looking miles above all of her rivals bar Appreciate It who is yet to run this season and was meant to be going chasing.

If Honeysuckle picks up an injury between now and D-Day then the Champion Hurdle is up for grabs, and Constitution Hill might well be good enough to take the prize.

It's not impossible for a novice to win the Champion Hurdle.

Make A Stand, albeit massively experienced, did so for the legend Martin Pipe in 1997, while two years earlier Alderbrook managed the feat for Kim Bailey. Now of course the latter was a pro on the Flat, but he still had little hurdling experience.

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Constitution Hill already looks a natural, and his ability is there for all to see.

Of course he has not beaten a Champion Hurdle contender, but he has smashed up decent youngsters and is clearly in absolute belting form.

At this stage we don't know, but it might turn out beating Jonbon in the Supreme is harder than defeating Honeysuckle in the Champion. It might not, but who is to say right now?

I'm not saying Constitution Hill should run in the Champion, for which one bookmaker said to me they would currently offer him at about 10-1 (he'd be much shorter if a definite runner by the way).

But what I am saying is that for a relatively small outlay it's worth the punt. Even if Honeysuckle does run, it's not as if she's been beating worldies in her winning spree.

Quite simply, the two-mile hurdling division lacks any considerable strength in depth. So go on Hendo. Go on Buckers. Just do it. Do it for me!

The Tolworth Hurdle success of Nico De Boinville was the rider's 30th Grade 1 success. I know that because he told me.

It's something he's very proud of and quite rightly so. Chastel de Boinville, as he should be called, is a little bit of enigma. I'd argue that in many ways Nico is far from a lauded jockey, yet his record suggests he should be.

When could you say De Boinville last lost a race he should have won? I can't think of one off the top of my head, for all that there are close finishes you won't always come out on top.

Added to that, Nico has ridden some crackers. Remember Might Bite in the RSA? That was one hell of an effort.

De Boinville has a brain, is clearly a team player and rarely falls off. He's also a diplomat, as he clearly is not always the choice for the JP McManus horses at Seven Barrows. Yet he never kicks up a fuss.

How he was not on Champ at Ascot the other day was very odd, for all that Jonjo O'Neill Jr did a great job.

It's hard to think of another British-based rider who has ridden more Grade 1 victories than Nico De Boinville. He's a class act in every sense. 

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A BHA review group – grandly named the Quality Jump Racing Review Group – has been given the task of solving the problem the British faced at last year's Cheltenham Festival – in other words getting their backsides spanked by the Irish. 

Now at face value this looks a good idea. That's until you read what these great minds concluded. Amongst the suggestions are the following.

  • 1. Better prize money in British racing. Yep, well done team, that's a big shout. No one else would have considered that.
  • 2. Fewer meaningless Graded races. Wow! What an idea, something most of us have been saying for donkey's years.
  • 3. More competitive races. No way? What a find.
  • 4. To produce a programme that is, basically, not a bore fest.

It beggars belief to be quite frank. But it's great work if you can get paid for it!

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