14 March 2023

Henderson full of praise for De Boinville after ‘extraordinary’ Constitution Hill delivers

14 March 2023

In the end it was just as easy as all the preview nights said it would be for Constitution Hill, as racing hailed its newest superstar following the Unibet Champion Hurdle.

Nicky Henderson described training his latest wonder horse as easy as “ABC” and it was child’s play for Nico de Boinville, who continues to rack up the Grade Ones despite being under-utilised outside of Seven Barrows. To prove the De Boinville point he was completing the full set of Gold Cup, Champion Chase and Champion Hurdle.

Only six, the Michael Buckley-owned Constitution Hill was having just the sixth race of his life, five of them in Grade One company, and remarkably this winning margin of nine lengths – agonising for those who backed him to win by more than 10 – was his smallest to date.

The most amazing thing about Constitution Hill is that nothing about him is amazing. He does not stand out in the paddock, he is not overly big, he does not seem to even be going that fast. But whatever his secret is, so far nothing can get near him.

State Man, trained by Willie Mullins, would have been a worthy winner of the majority of Champion Hurdles, but he could not get anywhere near a horse who may well do for jump racing what Frankel did for the Flat.

Henderson said: “I’ve got watery eyes, I always have and I always will have, but that will bring tears to most eyes when you see a horse that is like that because I think it’s pretty unique.

“Only one of these horses come along in a lifetime. You can’t get a horse like this if you only have one horse, you have to have a lot of horses to find one of these and we are lucky.

“I think it is extraordinary that is just the sixth race of his life and he’s doing that now. We had some wonderful days here with Sprinter Sacre, in particular his comeback Champion Chase, that was about as unique as it got – but this horse is going to extraordinary levels at the moment.

“We are very lucky to be the custodians of this horse, but then the trouble is the responsibility that comes with that.”

It took me a long time before I would say Sprinter was better than say See You Then, but I had to admit it in the end

When asked if Constitution Hill was the best he had trained Henderson said: “We’ll sleep on that one. They always say you should never paint a horse until he’s retired. It took me a long time before I would say Sprinter was better than say See You Then, but I had to admit it in the end. Altior was another great horse.”

He went on: “It’s a real team effort, Nico only sits on him occasionally for a little pop. but I can’t enjoy watching him – halfway up the run-in I can, but only then.

“I was stood next to Barry Geraghty, who I bought him off, and your heart is going a million and I heard the commentator say there was four minutes to post time and I was thinking ‘I can’t stand this for another four minutes!’.

“But I said to Barry I remember the exact same message going out when he won the Champion Chase on Sprinter.

“He is just an extraordinary horse, in his whole make-up and physique, but his biggest weapon is his mindset – it is totally and utterly unflappable. Training him is like ABC, you’d be pretty stupid if you got it wrong but we’ll get it wrong one day.

“The most important thing is that he doesn’t worry and neither does Nico. That’s why he is a brilliant jockey and why he’s ridden so many Grade One winners – Nico calms me down.”

Geraghty, a former Henderson stable jockey, sold Constitution Hill to his old boss for £120,000 – an absolute snip given what he has already achieved – and he has been part of the story from the start.

He said: “It’s special. It’s the way he’s so casual about everything, he just threw himself at the last.

“He didn’t even have a hard race, Nico kept it simple, kept him out of trouble and just popped away and let the horse do his thing. It’s surreal to watch.

“The nerves hit me 15 minutes before the race and I said to Nicky that I now know how he has felt for the past six months.

“Nicky has had some great horses but he’s said all along he’s had nothing like this.”

Thoughts now inevitably turn to the future and De Boinville raised the possibility of next year going over fences.

He said: “He could do anything – I’m sure we will try him over a fence at some point. I guess we don’t want to pigeon hole him just as a hurdler; he could be anything. I think he’d be good over a fence. As racing fans, that’s what we want to see.

“I find in recent years horses have tended to get pigeon holed too much, bar Faugheen. It could be interesting, and he’s still so young.

“All those horses (Sprinter Sacre, Altior and Coneygree) are fantastic in their own right and they belong in their own era. I don’t like to compare them.”

More immediately, Buckley ruled out going to Punchestown and Aintree appears the next stop.

“I first came here when I was 19 when the three big races were the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup and I never thought I’d own a horse let alone have runner in this or have a winner in this. I can’t say I’ve had a better day on the racecourse ever,” he said.

“I think probably not (going to Ireland) this year. It is a rare year in that such a nice long gap between here and Aintree. Maybe we will think about that another day. I’d like to come to Ireland.”

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