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Henderson hails 'absolutely extraordinary' Constitution Hill after Champion Hurdle triumph

Seven Barrows superstar Constitution Hill landed Lambourn’s Nicky Henderson his 73rd Cheltenham Festival winner when he stormed to success in the Champion Hurdle.

All eyes were on the unbeaten six-year-old ahead of the world-famous Festival’s showpiece race and he more than lived up to his big billing, finishing nine lengths clear of the Willie Mullins-trained State Man to score his sixth successive win.

In doing so, Constitution Hill cemented his status as one of racing’s greatest ever hurdlers and Henderson hailed him as being in the same bracket as the legendary Sprinter Sacre, who won 18 of his 24 races and made a remarkable return to form late in his career after being plagued by health and injury problems.

Nicky Henderson at Newbury Racecourse. Pictures by Phil Cannings
Nicky Henderson at Newbury Racecourse. Pictures by Phil Cannings

At 4/11, the Blue Bresil gelding was the shortest-priced Champion Hurdle winner ever and never looked like being beaten as he landed the biggest prize of all for Henderson in what was an otherwise fruitless Festival for the six-time champion Jumps trainer.

Jockey Nico de Boinville positioned his mount behind the pace-setters before he quickened three hurdles from home and moved into a commanding lead as the Cheltenham crowd roared him home to become one of the Champion Hurdle’s finest ever winners.

An emotional Henderson hailed Constitution Hill as “extraordinary” when speaking to The Jockey Club after he celebrated a record ninth Champion Hurdle and his fourth in seven years.

"You can do anything with this horse," he said.

"He has had six races now and has barely come off the bridle, but it won't last forever so let's enjoy it while we have got it.

"Sprinter Sacre did amazing things for us and his comeback was unbelievable but this horse has got into these echelons after six races.

"It is an extraordinary thing to happen but he is an extraordinary horse, he is a freak.

"I always have watery eyes and I always will, I think that would bring a tear to most eyes when you see a horse like that because it's pretty unique.

"There is a brilliant team behind him and they have done fantastically.

"It's been an anxious time, we all know the last few weeks are horrible. I just hope I have not been too bad.

"He's a once in a lifetime horse, you have got to have a lot of horses to find one of these.

"This horse is going to extraordinary levels at the moment and we are lucky to be the custodian of him but a lot of responsibility comes with it."

Henderson chats with Nico de Boinville
Henderson chats with Nico de Boinville

Meanwhile, Nico de Boinville, celebrating his 16th winner at the Festival, lauded Constitution Hill's "foot-perfect" performance and praised Henderson as an "absolute master", speaking to The Jockey Club's Graham Clark and Lucy Elder.

"We were just focused on ourselves and what was going on at Seven Barrows," he said.

"Sean, who rides him every day, has done a fantastic job and the guv'nor (Henderson) has got him in great order.

"I think he has proved to everyone what a fabulous racehorse he is.

"I love watching Nicky with any of his horses, he's an absolute master.

"It's fantastic to watch him, knowing that I could never do that or have that instinct of intuition."

Henderson said Constitution Hill's next start is set to be in the Aintree Hurdle at next month's Grand National meeting on April 13 but both he and de Boinville admit his longer term future is less certain.

Owner Michael Buckley is renowned as something of a maverick in the racing world and admitted he'd like to send his star to race in Ireland while de Boinville suggested he'd also be well-suited to racing over fences.

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