Talking Horses: Constitution Hill v Honeysuckle is a race for the ages
Forty-eight hours on from an apparently flawless performance like Constitution Hill’s 12-length success at Newcastle on Saturday, the adrenalin has worn off and it is generally possible to make a more objective assessment of the form. Perhaps the second-favourite ran well below form, went off too fast or made a mistake at a key stage. Maybe the winner was the only one that acted on the ground.
This time, there’s nothing. Not even the faintest hint of a hole to niggle away at. Constitution Hill travelled supremely well from the first stride, settled easily into his unfamiliar role as a front-runner and flew every hurdle without a second thought. And when Nico de Boinville asked for just a little of what his partner had left in the tank, Constitution Hill’s turn of foot was immediate and electrifying. He scarcely moved past second gear, but still covered the two miles 17 seconds faster than the winner of the opening juvenile hurdle.
Jumping has a generational talent on its hands, at the very least, and conceivably the best hurdler of all time. Istabraq, around the turn of the century, and Night Nurse, Monksfield and Sea Pigeon, from the golden era in the 1970s, are among the great names that Constitution Hill needs to surpass, while Sir Ken and Hatton’s Grace, both three-time winners just after the Second World War, deserve to be part of the conversation too.
With only four runs in the book, however, Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old is already just 5lb behind Night Nurse, Timeform’s top-rated hurdler in the half-century or so that the firm has been assessing jumpers. And the best news of all for the sport is that he has a contemporary rival in Honeysuckle who might well be good enough to give him a serious test.
If the next few months unfold to plan, and Honeysuckle does indeed an 18-race unbeaten record on the line in the Champion Hurdle against what is likely to be Constitution Hill’s perfect five-from-five, my personal view is that even a 7lb mares’ allowance will not save Honeysuckle from a beating that confirms Constitution Hill as the best hurdler of any generation. If that possibility does not keep you warm through the depths of winter, nothing will.