Constitution Hill, simply superb in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle (JTW Equine Images)
By Tom Williams
It’s not often that words cannot be found to describe something so incredible, it beggars belief at what you have witnessed.
Yet for all at Gosforth Park on Saturday, the Oxford English Dictionary may struggle to comprehend and have enough adjectives to describe the performance that was seen by a star oh so high in the ascendency.
Spine-tingling. Scintillating. Freakish. Imperious.
Those could be any number of the plethora of words to describe Constitution Hill, who turned his seasonal reappearance into an absolute procession as he tore apart a quality field to win the Fighting Fifth Hurdle in emphatic fashion.
He disposed of 2020 Champion Hurdle and two time winner of the race Epatante, also his stablemate, with effortless ease and a capacity that screamed of an extreme talent, running away with the contest by 12 lengths.
Having taken the lead at flag fall, the son of Blue Bresil turned a Grade 1 Hurdle of talented opposition into an exhibition of an equine masterpiece, simply lighting the burners as the field turned for home and quickly putting daylight between his rivals, putting the race to bed in a matter of strides.
Last year’s winners ( dead heated ), Epatante and Not So Sleepy, filled second and third, with Voix Du Reve and Tommy’s Oscar bringing up the rear of the quintet.
If raw pace was enough to dispatch of the opposition, his slick, quick, accurate jumping was used to devastating effect under Nico De Boinville, with the Supreme Novices Hurdle champion of last season winging the last in a display that will last long in the memory of all who saw it.
Such talent does not come often, and it was even more deserving for owner Michael Buckley, who has had unfortunate luck in the last few seasons when unleashing a potential superstar so early in their careers.
This lad though, may well be the horse he was destined to have, and whilst he may have a superstar on his hands, scoring at 1-4 Favourite like he should have was not as comforting as one would imagine.
“It’s actually ( quite ) stressful”, he stated to assembled media afterwards. “It plays on your mind… you’re waiting for something unpleasant to happen”.
He then reflected more positively on the race, and confided that it was a “privilege” to have the horse, one that would leave plenty of owners very much the envy of all.
“He’s spectacular, and he has a wonderful demeanour”. “I’m very lucky”.
“I’m pretty awestruck by him, the whole thing’s a joy!”
Nico De Boinville, the pilot entrusted with guiding this equine equivalent of an F-22 Raptor jet fighter, stated that his instructions were to “keep it simple”.
He also noted that it was his first ever visit to Newcastle, and it was “a hell of a way to start” his visits to the course.
“The Governor ( Nicky Henderson )’s main instruction was to keep it simple”
“He felt like he was only going a half speed. I could hear them behind me and once I turned in, I quickened it up and went through the gears with him”.
“It was sensational”.
Annotating on his hurdling, Nico stated he was “very slick”. Mentions have been about him going chasing, but it seems that that thought is one for the future as he declared that the camp were “fully down” the route they have planned, which appears to be the Christmas Hurdle next for this incredible prodigy of Seven Barrows.
“He was just breathtaking today”. “Let’s see what the year brings”.
The nomination of Kempton Park on Boxing Day appears to be cemented, as trainer Nicky Henderson inclined that way when approached at Newbury, where he was in attendance for the Coral Gold Cup.
“He has to go for the Christmas Hurdle”, he stated when being interviewed by the reporters at the Berkshire course.
He also noted that it was “sad” for Epatante, who had won the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle last year before finishing runner up to Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, but there was no denying the incredible manner in which the winner put his rivals to the sword at Gosforth Park.
“That is a bit of a freak” he stated, whilst no doubt quietly confirming that his decision to pull out his charge from the Coral Hurdle at Ascot last week was profoundly vindicated. “The beauty of him is his temperament”.
“You can make the running…. drop him in… whatever you like”.
“He’s an amazing horse”.
“To do that to her ( Epatante, who has won it in 2020 and dead heated with Not So Sleepy last year ), was ridiculous!”
“Nico knows where that button is, and when he presses it, it’s extraordinary”.
As a result of his triumph at Newcastle, plenty of bookmakers have slashed Constitution Hill’s odds for the Champion Hurdle in March to a general, and unbelievable at this stage of the season, 8/11F. Granted it is over 3 and a half months until then, but it seems that the bookmakers are presenting it as an inevitability that this horse may well take the blue riband of hurdling this season.
Talk has even been mentioned of him emulating the great Dawn Run in landing the Champion Hurdle, and then going on to win another blue riband in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
That is enough to whet the appetite of any jumps fan. But thats for another day, and time.
Right now, we have a horse that could be the very embodiment of the jumping equivalent of Baaeed. A masterpiece in equine form.
Of beaten horses, JP McManus noted that there were “no complaints” from him regarding Epatante’s second place. He noted that the winner “looks pretty special”, and that his charge “ran a good race”.
Nicky Henderson further reflected on her gallant effort in defeat by stating “I couldn’t be happier with her, she’s run a great race”.
Whilst she has run a gallant race in defeat, there was no denying the sheer quality of the winner, and the sky really is the potential for this one.
Victory in the Tolworth Hurdle by 12 lengths, victory in the Supreme by 22 lengths, and now victory in the Fighting Fifth by 12 lengths. It really does beg the question – Who exactly can stop him?
We may need to wait a very long time to find out who, As right now, he appears to be a once in a generation blessing.
National Hunt Racing is lucky to have him. He is a flagbearer for the thoroughbred, and the industry as a whole.
It will be some time before his like will be seen again.