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Cheltenham Festival: Examining Nicky Henderson's representatives

Constitution Hill

Tucked away overlooking the yard, this is Henderson's unquestioned superstar. Constitution Hill caught attention at last year's Festival (taking the Novice Hurdle), but it wasn't until November's Fighting Fifth that he really took off. Destroying Epatante by twelve lengths, the Newcastle triumph was confirmed on Boxing Day at Kempton, when he went clear of his stablemate once more, this time by seventeen lengths. His talents are deceptive, however, with Henderson passing him off as a horse who "doesn't look anything special". Instead, his trainer says, Constitution Hill's greatest asset is his head. "You can put him to sleep until the right moment," he explains, "then Nico de Boinville knows where to press a button and turn him on."


Another stablemate to have suffered under a Constitution Hill demolition, here's the runner up in Constitution Hill's big race debut at Cheltenham last year. Jonbon had a scare at Warwick last weekend, in a two horse race with Dan Skelton's Calico, who whooshed up his inside six fences out. With Willie Mullins' El Fabiolo denying him favourite-status in the Arkle, after his success in the Irish version two weeks ago, Jonbon has work to do if he's to make an impact once more. He's well, says his trainer, after the Warwick outing, and his win at Sandown was impressive in December. It's onwards and upwards, the team say, and he's all the sharper for a wake-up call.


It hasn't been a smooth ride for this ex Arkle and Novice Hurdle winner. First there was a rare bone condition, diagnosed after last year's Festival, when he was pulled up in the Queen Mother after the eighth. Then there was a pilate issue, diagnosed after a third in the Tingle Creek, at the backend of last year. We'll follow his progress this weekend, when he takes on Fakir D'Oudairies in the Ascot Chase. But it remains to be seen if the Henderson team can help this old boy over his physical flare-ups. Could he make a triumphant return. Or is it game over for once impressive champion?


Should she make it to the Champion Hurdle, Constitution Hill won't be the only obstacle in a path to (albeit unexpected) glory. First, there's Willie Mullins' State Man to contend with, recently taking the Irish Champion Hurdle from Honeysuckle's grasp. Then there's State Man's third and fourth that day: Vauban and Pied Piper (Vauban won last year's Triumph Hurdle, under a year after he was transferred from France to Willie Mullins). But Epatante is looking well, and a Betway Hurdle, Christmas Hurdle and two Fighting Fifths are still within memory. She was second in the Champion last year. One better in 2023, however, may be a stretch.

Marie's Rock

Now entered to take on Honeysuckle, with a step up in trip for the Mares Hurdle, Marie's Rock impressed as a winner for Middleham Park in the New Year's Day Relkeel Hurdle. Nico De Boinville steered her to a six length victory that day, and is likely to jump aboard once more, at the same course, in the Festival. Impressing owners and public alike, her trainer was bursting with praise at Seven Barrows, as his prime new-kid-on-the-block was paraded for us. Marie's Rock is by 2001 St Leger winner Milan, who now stands at Grange Stud in Ireland.


For 2023


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