Nicky Henderson already has a record eight Champion Hurdle triumphs to his name and Constitution Hill is a red-hot favourite to secure him another.
The unbeaten six-year-old is around a 1-3 chance to take the Unibet-sponsored showpiece, with his official rating soaring to 173 after just five starts.
To put that in context, the winner of the past two renewals, Honeysuckle, has never been rated higher than 165. And the winners before her have been Epatante (best rating 162), Espoir D’Allen (170), Buveur D’air (172) and Annie Power (166).
In other words, the assessor reckons he’s superior to all of them despite the fact that he's never run in a Champion Hurdle.
Faugheen (174), Hurricane Fly (175) and Istabraq (176) are all within touching distance for Constitution Hill, with State Power (167) giving the handicapper something to measure him. Or, perhaps, vice versa!
A final field of seven has been declared. Here's a guide to them all.
Official Rating: 173. Festival form: 1. Odds: 1-3.
Has looked something out of the ordinary in winning his first five races by an aggregate of 77 lengths – four of them in Grade One company. He put up a jaw-dropping display when surging clear in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in a rapid time and has effectively used Epatante (won this in 2020 and placed in two other renewals) as a punch bag in this season’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle and Christmas Hurdle. Slick jumper proven on a range of ground who, barring misfortune, promises to take all the beating.
Official Rating: 157. Festival form: 00. Odds: 16-1.
Plenty to like about the way he romped home in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton last time, although there's a suspicion none of his three rivals gave their running. His previous no-shows at the Festival (including behind State Man in last year’s County Hurdle) mask the fact that he has won three times at the track, including in the Greatwood Hurdle in November. Seems well served by goodish ground and trainer never one to be frightened away by one horse.
Official Rating: 150. Festival form: --. Odds: 150-1.
Well-beaten in a handicap on Trials Day here in January, on his first start for Phil Kirby after a £50,000 sale, and looks to be making up the numbers here.
Official Rating: 156. Festival form: P55. Odds: 150-1.
Must have been a fun horse to own over the years. Has finished fifth in the past two renewals but, at the age of 11, he’s not going to be getting any quicker. Has been no match for Constitution Hill at Newcastle or Kempton this season, running one of his moody races on the latter occasion. I’m not sure any horse has finished fifth in the race three years in succession, but it’s probably the best he can hope for.
Official Rating: 167. Festival form: 1. Odds: 11-4.
He’s gone from strength to strength and is unlucky not to have won each of his seven races for Willie Mullins (fell two out on first start for the stable when going well). Exploited a handicap mark of 141 in the County Hurdle last year and has since chalked up four successive Grade One wins, looking straightforward in terms of tactics. Ireland have not got a better candidate in their ranks but he’s been beating the same horses and has lacked Constitution Hill’s wow factor, getting the run of the race in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time.
Official Rating: 160. Festival form: 1. Odds: 10-1.
Little doubt he was the best juvenile around last season, landing the Triumph Hurdle before following up at Punchestown. Shaped well on his belated return when chasing home State Man in the Matheson Hurdle but couldn’t get any closer to him in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time, perhaps unsuited by the steady gallop set by the winner. He’s got a bigger performance in him, and he’s a chunky price relative to State Man.
Official Rating: 157. Festival form: 43*. Odds: 80-1.
Third home at a big price last year but was subsequently disqualified. His connections tried to reinvent him as a stayer earlier in the season but after flopping when tried over 3m, he was dropped back to 2m for the Irish Champion Hurdle last time and finished last of five, albeit not disgraced. Hard to see him making much impact.
1 CONSTITUTION HILL. 2 STATE MAN. 3 VAUBAN. 4 I LIKE TO MOVE IT. 5 ZANAHIYR. 6. NOT SO SLEEPY. 7.JASON THE MILITANT.
🐴 STATS AND TRENDS FOR ALL 28 RACES
🐴 A SUPER STATISTIC FOR EVERY RACE
📅 I WAS THERE: EIGHT MEMORABLE FESTIVAL DAYS
✍ DAN OVERALL STUDIES THE 9 HANDICAPS
✍ 11 THINGS WE LEARNT WHEN THE WEIGHTS WERE RELEASED
😲 WINNERS WHO HIT 999-1 IN-RUNNING AND EPIC LOSERS
🐴 BETTING OFFERS AND FREE BETS
✍ CHAMPION HURDLE RUNNER-BY-RUNNER GUIDE
✍ CHAMPION CHASE RUNNER-BY-RUNNER GUIDE
✍ GOLD CUP RUNNER-BY-RUNNER GUIDE
📺 WATCH: GORDON ELLIOTT ON HIS LEADING CONTENDERS
📺 WATCH: WILLIE MULLINS ON HIS LEADING CONTENDERS
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