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As laid-back as they come: watch Cheltenham Festival fancy being ridden by small child


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  • A miserable winter’s afternoon at Sandown was lit up by the runaway victory of Nicky Henderson’s much-hyped Constitution Hill in the Unibet Tolworth Hurdle on Saturday (8 January).

    The five-year-old gelding by Blue Bresil and owned by Michael Buckley, cruised through the race on bottomless ground. He took jockey Nico de Boinville to the front at the second-last and hardly came off the bridle to beat Jetoile by 12 lengths. He has proved to be in a different league in terms of class and, if the British are going to take it to the Irish at the Cheltenham Festival this year, then we need a few more Constitution Hills.

    But so laid-back is Constitution Hill that Barry Geraghty’s six-year-old daughter was tasked with helping to school and ride him as a three-year-old and, as you can see from the video, they struck up a lovely partnership.

    “I love his disposition,” says jockey Nico de Boinville. “He’s so relaxed. He just eats, sleeps and goes out like a pony. He wanders round at the start and does everything so easily. It was a great performance and I’m delighted. He is push-button to ride, honestly a jockey’s dream. I was blown away by that.

    “He’s such a likeable horse. He answers every question and everything seems to be so easy for him. He’s always within his comfort zone, so it seems, and I think there’s a lot more to come.”

    On the back of his performance at Sandown on Saturday, Constitution Hill surplanted his stablemate Jonbon in some lists as the favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

    In Nico de Boinville’s mind he is already up there with Supreme winners Altior and Shishkin in terms of raw ability.

    “This is some horse, quite an animal,” he says. “I couldn’t believe when I looked round how far clear I was. He made very easy work of it. That ground was bottomless out there, but he made light work of it.”Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

    Constitution Hill’s trainer Nicky Henderson had to watch the race on television, while he sat out a bout of Covid.

    “Even I thought he was impressive,” he said. “What we saw was better than any medicine – that’ll kill Covid I can tell you, watching something like that. He was spectacular. We hoped he might be.

    “There had been a lot of hype from one run but he’s an extraordinary horse and just to go round there and do that was frightening, to be honest with you.”

    But even Henderson described the horse as “asleep” most of the time.

    “He’s a sheep,” he says: “Let’s just hope that the future shines for this horse. He could be enormous but as everyone knows you need an awful lot of luck on your side for things to go forward, but the future looks bright.”

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