Debate as to who might come out on top in a two-mile championship clash over hurdles between Constitution Hill and Honeysuckle was reignited as the British and Irish handicappers unveiled the end of season Anglo-Irish Classifications for the 2021/22 campaign.
A clash all will be looking forward to in 2022/23 will be that between Constitution Hill, the brilliant Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner, and dual Unibet Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle.
Constitution Hill earned a mark of 170 for his stunning display in the Cheltenham Festival opener, the highest achieved by a novice hurdler since the introduction of the Anglo-Irish Jumps Classifications.
Honeysuckle, meanwhile, was awarded a figure of 165, a mark that means the handicappers would give her the edge on last season's form were the pair to meet with Honeysuckle being given a 7lb mares' allowance.
Andrew Mealor, British Horseracing Authority Hurdles Team Leader, said: “170 is a very high rating for a novice, the highest rating for a novice over hurdles since the Anglo-Irish Jump Classifications were founded in 1999/2000, eclipsing the 168 rating awarded to Iris’s Gift after he finished second to Baracouda as a novice in the 2003 Stayers’ Hurdle. For a novice to have achieved a rating of that level without coming out of novice company is very, very rare indeed.
“You could easily have been looking at a rating of 175, 176 purely on times and nothing else, but once we looked purely at the form, that helped bring us down a bit. That race was absolutely teed up for a horse to run a very fast time, with the way the leaders went off.
“It was a huge performance and the win of Jonbon at Aintree backed that up. It was to Jonbon's credit that after such a hard race at Cheltenham, he was able to turn up at Aintree and produce the performance that he did.
“To be honest, I'm pretty sure that when we sit here at this time next year, he will be on 175, 176, 177 and he'll probably have won the Champion Hurdle. But for now, we were happy with 170.
“It's a pretty lean time for British two-mile hurdling in many ways, so Constitution Hill has come along at the right time.”
Split-screen comparison: Constitution Hill's Supreme Novices' Hurdle victory and Honeysuckle's second Champion Hurdle win
Irish Horse Racing Board Senior Handicapper Sandy Shaw added: “It was a really jaw-dropping performance but at the same time I think it's right that Honeysuckle's mares' allowance would effectively raise her rating to 172 and give her the edge. Constitution Hill was really impressive and the times and the sectionals back that up, but I don't doubt that Honeysuckle would have been able to lay up with the pace if needs be and I sometimes think she is a little under-rated.
"Honeysuckle will be nine next year and perhaps won't have the pace she had in previous years but it will be very interesting to see what happens. When you see a performance like Constitution Hill's you'd like to see it backed up, which unfortunately didn't happen at Punchestown.
"I think Constitution Hill is favourite with the bookmakers for the clash in the Champion Hurdle and I can see why - but as things stand, I think it's right that Honeysuckle - once her mares' allowance is taken into account - would be rated slightly the higher.”
A Plus Tard stormed to victory in the 2022 Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup
A Plus Tard, winner of the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, has been crowned as the leading Jumps horse in Britain and Ireland in the 23rd season-ending Anglo-Irish Jumps Classifications.
The eight-year-old, trained for Cheveley Park Stud by Henry De Bromhead, went one better than he managed in the 2021 renewal of the Cheltenham showpiece, reversing the form with stablemate Minella Indo in spectacular fashion under Rachel Blackmore with a 15-length success.
That performance earned A Plus Tard a mark of 180, putting him 3lb clear of his rivals at the summit of the standings.
Sandy Shaw, Senior IHRB National Hunt Handicapper, commented: “A Plus Tard’s performance in winning the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup was one of the finest seen in the race in recent years. His winning margin of 15 lengths was the biggest since that of Master Oats 27 years ago and in doing so, he posted the highest figure for a Gold Cup winner since Bobs Worth in 2013.
“To see a horse come up the hill like he did at the end of three and a quarter miles was quite something. It was a stunning performance, fully worthy of champion status. And there's probably more to come as he's only an eight-year-old.”
"Unbelievable!" - Watch what Henry de Bromhead had to say following A Plus Tard's Cheltenham Gold Cup victory
BHA Head of Handicapping Martin Greenwood added: “I think even I could have ridden him to victory that day - it was the first performance in the 180s that has come across my desk in the time that I've been in the job
Another Cheveley Park Stud-owned star took runner-up honours behind A Plus Tard in the overall standings, with Allaho handed a mark of 177 following dominant victories in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham and the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup the following month for trainer Willie Mullins.
Dual Ryanair Chase winner Allaho produced another dominant display from the front at the Punchestown Festival
Shay Quinn, IHRB National Hunt Handicapper, said of Allaho: “He earned a figure of 177 after a spectacular round of jumping in the Ryanair helped him demolish the field by 17 lengths. He is rated an above average winner of the race and the highest since Vautour in 2016.
“Galopin de Champs is the top novice on 172. His final start was his most impressive, beating Grade 1-winning Master McShee in the Boylesports Gold Cup at Fairyhouse, achieving his figure of 172. He is undoubtably an exceptional novice and is highest-rated since Gold Cup-winning novice, Coneygree. He jumps like a stag and has the perfect blend of speed and stamina. This rangy six‐year‐old can only improve on his rating and has the potential to go all the way to the top.”
Sharing third place is another Mullins runner, Energumene, and the highest-rated British-trained horse, Shishkin. Tied on 176, the pair served up one of the moments of the season when the latter got the better of the former by a length to land the SBK Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January, though Energumene’s Champion Chase success means the pair end the season inseparable, with their future meetings eagerly anticipated.
Energumene cruised clear to win the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, with Shishkin failing to show his best
“Some might say we sat on the fence putting them on the same mark, but we thought it was probably the best way to handle this, We're handicappers, we're human and your guess is as good as ours to some extent, but we thought it was the fairest thing to do. Energumene went there and did it at Cheltenham and it was a great performance but you can't forget what Shishkin did at Ascot.”
Both of the British Horseracing Authority handicappers present as the Classifications were revealed commented about the margin between the best of the British and Irish-trained horses at the top of the standings.
Of the dozen top-rated hurdlers and chasers, only seven of the 24 highest performers are British-trained.
Highlighting as an example, the fact that First Flow's 162 means no British-trained horse is rated within 14lb of the best over the intermediate distance in steeplechasing, BHA Steeplechase Handicapping Team Leader Martin Greenwood said: “We're stones apart in many areas and it does make slightly depressing reading from a British point of view.
“There are certainly positives for the British in terms of some of the novice chasers and novice hurdlers coming through.
“With Shishkin and Constitution Hill both trained in the same stable, I think it will make for some pressure on Nicky Henderson to get them out and fly the flag as they are clearly the best Britain has got over fences and hurdles respectively.
“I haven't got a crystal ball and racing is always full of surprises, however I can't see how Allaho, A Plus Tard and Galopin Des Champs will be challenged next season, so I think the picture is going to remain similar for at least another season at least.”
|Rating||2m||2 1/2 m||3m +|
|180||-||-||A Plus Tard|
|173||Chacun Pour Soi||-||-|
|172||-||Galopin des Champs||Clan des Obeaux|
|168||Greaneteen||-||Any Second Now, Conflated|
|166||-||-||Galvin, Minella Indo|
|165||Nube Negra||Fakir D'Oudairies, Royal Rendezvous||Kemboy, Tornado Flyer|
|164||Gentleman de Mee||Al Boum Photo||L'Homme Presse, Protektorat|
|163||Funambule Sivola||Janidil||Eldorado Allen, Royale Pagaille|
|162||-||First Flow||Asterion Forlonge|
|161||Edwardstone, Envoi Allen, Sceau Royal||Melon, Saint Calvados||Ahoy Senor, Bravemansgame, Frodon, Hewick|
|Rating||2 miles||2 1/2 miles||3 miles|
|162||-||-||Sire du Berlais|
|161||Sharjah||-||Champ, Paisley Park, Thyme Hill|
|159||State Man, Zanahiyr||-||-|
|158||Not So Sleepy, Teahupoo||Commmander Of Fleet||-|
|157||Goshen, Sceau Royal||Ronald Pump||-|
|156||Jason The Militant, Tommy's Oscar||-||-|
|155||Saint Roi, Vauban||Brewin'upastorm, Darasso, Sir Gerhard||Sporting John|
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