Skip to main content Skip to site footer


Press Release 22nd February 2024 Cheltenham

Nicky Henderson has hailed Constitution Hill as horseracing’s “special one” as the superstar seven-year-old bids to maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles and land the trainer a record 10th Unibet Champion Hurdle.


With eight wins from eight starts over hurdles the Michael Buckley-owned gelding will go into his date with destiny on day one of the Cheltenham Festival a heavy odds-on favourite.


Last seen sauntering to victory on Boxing Day in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle, Constitution Hill is now expected to repeat his victory in last year’s Unibet Champion Hurdle.


And, speaking at a media event organised by The Jockey Club today, Henderson admitted: “There’s an element of … pressure’s not the right thing, but responsibility certainly comes into it, because he is the special one at the moment and long may it last.”


Henderson, who already has nine victories in the iconic race to his name, having saddled some of the all-time greats including See You Then and Binocular, insists that instead of worrying about their main rival – the Willie Mullins-trained State Man - in next month’s race he is focusing on his own plans.


He explained: “Willie and I can have plenty of fun and have a good game between us. We’re good mates.


“I don’t know what they’ll do. I think the main thing in this game is that we know what we’re trying to do and we’re going to concentrate on what we’re doing. There’s no point in concentrating on what everybody else is up to. They’ve got their plans to make and we’ll concentrate on ours.”


Told that reports suggested State Man looked “better than ever” at the Dublin Racing Festival, Henderson laughed: “Did he? He looked the same horse to me.


“He’s a very good horse, there’s no doubt about that. He gets his job done every time, doesn’t he? But then we’ve beaten him once so let’s hope we can do it again. He only just beat First Street in the County Hurdle you know? And we were giving him weight. We know where he is!”


Henderson told media that Constitution Hill will have an ‘away day’ before the Cheltenham Festival but at this stage does not know exactly where or when that will be. However, he stressed that he is pleased with his stable star and believes he is “exactly where we want to be”.


He went on: “We’ve been lucky. The only horse who has any major work left to do is Constitution Hill because he hasn’t run since Christmas, which is exactly the same as last year. But we had a couple of weeks off in the middle where he wasn’t quite clean and I would like to go and have an away day. The others, nothing else needs one … because they have been running through January.


“As you know with him nothing worries him … We’re in good shape. I’d be pretty happy that we’re exactly where we were with him this time last year or this time coming into Christmas.


“He’s in good form. At Christmas obviously he had been ready because he should have gone to Newcastle so he was very well prepped for the Christmas Hurdle. But he is again here – straight after Christmas he was back in work because we were trying to get to Cheltenham but he didn’t miss anything there. But I’d still like that one good away day, that’ll do him…


“His weight’s good, his mind’s good – his mind’s always good. I thought he was exceptional last Saturday. Admittedly it was very, very foggy (on the gallops) but he was moving beautifully and the ground was beautiful.


“He’s very, very professional. That’s the secret to him. His mind game is so good. You can see the difference between him and Jonbon. Jonbon is always having a look at what’s happening.”


Asked if he is worried that Constitution Hill goes into The Festival with just one run under his belt this campaign – the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on Boxing Day – Henderson replied: “No that doesn’t worry me. You’re not going to suddenly see him bolt off just because he’s fresh – he doesn’t do bolting off, thank God!


“He’s just an ultimate professional and you can do anything with him. It doesn’t matter how fast they want to go. If they want to go very fast then fine. If they want to go very slow then ok, but we might want to go on. You don’t need pacemakers or anything for him. If I want to gallop him I can gallop him on his own. I don’t need to have other people. He’s much easier (than other horses).”


Henderson trained See You Then to Champion Hurdle glory in 1985, 1986 and 1987, Punjabi in 2009, Binocular in 2010, Buveur D’Air in 2017 and 2018 and Epatante in 2020.


But if last year’s winner Constitution Hill can repeat the feat on Tuesday 12th March, his trainer believes he could go down in history as the best of the bunch.


Henderson continued: “Well I should think we’re probably going to find out. We’ll very likely find out one way or another. He might well be … or he won’t be.


“There’s one thing they nearly all have in common – their ability to jump a hurdle as fast as you’ve ever seen a horse jump a hurdle. See you Then was exactly the same – from A to B. Binocular was the same - they all were. ‘Tent’ (My Tent Or Yours) was the same – he never won one but he was second in three Champion Hurdles. Buveur D’Air and Epatante – they were all electric hurdlers and this horse, as you’ve seen, he is just so fast and low and deadly accurate.


“You’ve got to be deadly accurate because if you get one wrong – and Buveur D’Air did get one wrong in his third year – the margin for error, when you do what these horses do, is so low. It’s about pinpoint accuracy, but if you’re an inch out, which he nearly did last year … the only reason he got away with it is that he was a fresh horse going into the last.


“Not many other horses would have survived that because they would’ve been tired, but he wasn’t remotely tired. Actually you could see him in mid-air adjust, because he had to get out the other side and he did. Because he was as fresh as paint.”


Reflecting on Constitution Hill’s career so far and one of his more recent superstars whose unbeaten record finally came to an end, Henderson acknowledges that the reigning Champion Hurdle king will likely be beaten one day.


He conceded: “It won’t last forever – it can’t – all good things come to an end. With Altior it took 19 races before it came to an end but that was only because Henderson was stupid enough to run him in heavy ground against Cyrname and that wrecked it – that was the end of the game.


“It was my fault. I should have stood my ground and not listened to lots of rather annoying people who insisted that you’ve got to run these horses. They’d given me so much grief for taking him out of races and then I don’t take him out and look what happens. End of horse, literally, it was the end of his career, so you don’t make those sorts of mistakes too often.


“The worries of having horses like him (Constitution Hill) – and I don’t think too many people feel sorry for me! – but you’ve got to be careful of what you’re doing and be mindful, but you’ve got to do what is the right thing by the horse.


“People have got understand that. That’s our responsibility. Now would you rather have that or not have a worry and sleep better at night? No, I’d rather have the horse, thanks. Most people would do. It’s a privilege and a pleasure. We’ve been lucky over the years, there have been good ones coming through. Most of the time there’s something to get you up in the morning.”


Henderson said he is likely to also run Luccia in the Unibet Champion Hurdle.


He explained: “Paul Sandy (owner) is a real enthusiast and he’s been in the game for years and he’s very, very keen to run her… The ratings tell you it’s not a great idea but there’s a lot of prize money. I know Paul would love to run and if that’s his wish then it’ll be my command.”


Cookie Policy

We use “cookies” to help enhance your experience and improve the functionality of our website. You can find out more in our cookie policy. We also serve cookies, some with chocolate chips, on our racecourses.