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Record rating for Nicky Henderson's Constitution Hill

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Nicky Henderson spoke to Newbury Weekly News from Ireland following the news that his horse, Constitution Hill, was awarded a mark of 170 in the Anglo-Irish Jumps Classifications – a record for a novice hurdler since the introduction of ratings.

The five-year-old gelding has won all three of his races so far, including an impressive victory in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Constitution Hill finished 22 lengths ahead of his stablemate, Jonbon, who was unbeaten on his four previous starts, including two Group 1 wins.

Henderson was visibly emotional at the end of the race, such was the magnitude of Constitution Hill's triumph.

Nicky Henderson
Nicky Henderson

Henderson said: "He's a very, very, very good horse.

"That said, I was surprised he could do that to Jonbon, I must admit.

"Any other year I'd have thought Jonbon would've been a bit of a banker.

"I'm very lucky to have a horse like him, he looks like he's the next in line to horses like Altior and Sprinter Sacre.

"He's frightening really, he's the highest rated novice there's ever been, he's rated four pounds above Honeysuckle.

"It's pretty staggering."

Henderson, a six-time Champion Trainer, has so far avoided the temptation to pit Constitution Hill against Honeysuckle, the two-time Champion Hurdle winner.

Nicky Henderson at Newbury Racecourse
Nicky Henderson at Newbury Racecourse

Honeysuckle, who is trained by Irishman Henry de Bromhead, is the first mare to ever win the race twice – in 2021 and 2022.

She's won all 16 of her races since her maiden run in November 2018 and was awarded a mark of 165 in the Jumps Classifications.

However, Henderson was unimpressed by attempts to lure Constitution Hill into a premature face-off with Honeysuckle at Punchestown at the end of April.

Race sponsors Paddy Power had tried to tempt Henderson, who is based in Lambourn, and owner Michael Buckley with a potential £100,000 bonus for any British horse that could beat Honeysuckle.

Nicky Henderson at his Lambourn yard
Nicky Henderson at his Lambourn yard

Henderson said: "It wasn't a difficult decision, I was never in favour of that race.

"He's five-years-old, he's got his life in front of him, he's got the world at his feet.

"When horses win as easily as he did, it's easy to get carried away in thinking he's had an easy race because he's won by so much, that he didn't really have to do anything.

"That is a very, very false idea because no horse can do what he did without putting 110 per cent into it.

"You cannot break a track record, you cannot win as easily as that without putting an enormous amount into it.

"Cheltenham takes a lot out of horses, especially youngsters, because of the atmosphere and the build up.

"He was trained for Cheltenham and I really didn't want to run him again.

"We've got all the time in the world to take on Honeysuckle.

"I was talking to Henry de Bromhead and we both agree that we want one meeting between the two horses and that will be in the Champion Hurdle next year, but we've all got to get there."

Henderson believes Constitution Hill still has plenty of room for improvement to ensure he is prepared for next year's Champion Hurdle, which will take place in March.

Nicky Henderson at a Lambourn open day
Nicky Henderson at a Lambourn open day

"I think physically, definitely, he can improve," he said.

"I don't think he was the finished article this year.

"He wasn't an expensive horse because he didn't look the most inspiring when we bought him.

"He was not in his Sunday suit when we bought him and to be honest with you, he still hasn't bought his Sunday suit.

"That's why we're treating him quite gently, we'll take our time with him."

It's been a meteoric rise for Constitution Hill since he arrived at Henderson's yard.

He admits: "When I started training him, I thought he was hopeless!"

Constitution Hill has gone from hopeless to hopeful under Henderson's tutelage – when he does face off against Honeysuckle, he will have the chance to write his name into racing's history books as one of the greats.

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