It may have come seven days and almost 300 miles further north than originally planned, but Constitution Hill left no one in doubt of his prodigious talent with a sensational display in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle .
The five-year-old proved himself something of an outlier last season, with triumphs of 14 and 12 lengths at Sandown bettered only by a barely believable demolition job of 22 lengths in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Trainer Nicky Henderson came in for a lot of criticism last weekend after Constitution Hill was withdrawn from his planned comeback race in the Coral Hurdle due to unsuitable ground, but Ascot’s loss was Newcastle’s gain and those in attendance at Gosforth Park were truly spoiled.
Not only did the Seven Barrows sire play the top-rated hurdler in training, but he also allowed star mare Epatante to bid for a Fighting Fifth treble after scoring in 2020 and delighting opposite Not So Sleepy 12 months ago . .
The Henderson pair dominated the race from the start, with 1-4 favorite Constitution Hill aiming to go all out under Nico de Boinville, while Epatante and Aidan Coleman did their best to chase him down.
But while there was a fleeting moment around the home turn when it looked like it might be a race, it was all soon over within a few strides as Constitution Hill found a piece of equipment that most horses could only dream of to leave champion hurdler. Stablemate follows behind him with 12 lengths separating them at the line.
Owner Michael Buckley has been fortunate to own some top horses over the years, including a Queen Mother Champion Chase winner in Finian’s Rainbow, but even he struggles to come to terms with the remarkable talent possessed by the latest star equine
He said: “That was pretty cool, wasn’t it? He is something, he was amazing.
“It’s a shame to do it to a friend (Epatante)!” We tried to keep them at bay but the weather was so tough and we just wanted to race when we could race, which was here.
“It sounds silly, but it’s actually surprisingly stressful. It seems so easy when you have a horse like that. It’s easy to think that everything is easy-even relaxing, but it’s only when it’s over that I realize how little sleep I’ve had, even when I think I’m falling asleep! It plays on your mind.”
Buckley, making his first visit to Newcastle, revealed he received a call on Friday from the Flat’s head trainer William Haggas – a man who has been in a similar position several times this year with his horse Baaeed for a life.
Buckley added: “I got a call yesterday from William.
“He said ‘good luck tomorrow, I remember when I went to Ascot for the Queen Anne and everyone was saying he was 1-6 and a certainty, but it didn’t feel like a certainty!’
“No, because you’re just waiting for something bad to happen, but he (Constitution Hill) is a very special horse, there’s no doubt about it.
“It is an absolute joy and a privilege to be able to find such a horse. I’ve never been to Newcastle Racecourse before so it’s a hell of a way to start.”
Buckley confirmed that the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day is likely to be the next port of call for Constitution Hill.
When asked if he felt he was the best horse he had ever owned, he said: “This may sound arrogant, it’s not meant to be, but if you have a horse that has had four races in its life, what a horse might look like. be better than him?
“He has a track record at Cheltenham and won the Fighting Fifth like that. If there was a better one, someone will tell me I’m wrong.
“Right now, he’s doing everything right and seemingly very easily.”
It’s hard to argue with Buckley’s assessment. It looks like the sky really might be the limit.