Betting gives clues to Constitution Hill’s future.
Over the weekend, did we gain any insight into the future of Constitution Hill? I believe we did.
If you’re a regular reader of the Racing Post, you’ll have enjoyed a column David Jennings wrote in the paper on Saturday. In it, he laughed off the idea that the reigning champion hurdler might be sent over fences in the fall. He likes the romantic aspect of the concept, but his conclusion was: “There is not a hope in hell”.
However, DJ did not end there. He persuaded Paddy Power to open a market on the subject, and as the weekend draws to a close, I am surprised to discover that it is still live in their “Horse racing specials” section under the heading: “What Obstacles Will Constitution Hill Run Over On His 1st Start Of The 2023/24 NH Season?”
Evidently, the company’s odds makers believed that my colleague had everything wrong. They used numbers 8-11 to say that the first run would be over fences, and even money said it would be over hurdles. Mr. Jennings said, “I can’t see the evens lasting too long,” and he was right.
When I jabbed my nose in on Sunday morning, the market had a seriously unique look. ‘ Hurdles had dropped to 4-7, while Fences had dropped to 5-4.
Naturally, this is a specials market, but I don’t think it’s one of the most active specials markets. The odds that are available have a healthy over-round, and large stakes are not accepted. Therefore, the significance of what can be deduced from this “plunge” is limited.
I believe we are receiving a lesson in realism that is very similar to what David was preaching in his column. Even though everyone would like to see Constitution Hill tackle fences in the upcoming term, that is not likely to happen. It’s like there are obstacles that need to be overcome along the way.
Paddy Power’s kin maybe focused on the desires of the pony’s proprietor, Michael Buckley, cited last week as saying: “My ambition would be to equal what Dawn Run did and try to win a Gold Cup”. However, I can think of at least two prerequisites before Constitution Hill leaps a fence in public: Nicky Henderson’s way of thinking must be circumvented by Buckley, and the horse must school gracefully over the larger obstacles.
It appears that the two men will chew it up this summer, which should be a lot of fun. Henderson seems pretty stressed out about the actual racing, but there is nothing better than planning for your multitalented champion racehorse and enjoying your options knowing that no final decision will be needed for months.
I picture them sitting down to talk about it over whisky as a hotel in the Caribbean gets darker. I might have been sent after them in the hope of listening in from some nearby armchair in the good old days of expense-account journalism.
In any case, I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion. The trainer, who is naturally conservative, may be won over by the owner’s argument. It’s a tempting idea to participate in a Dawn Run. Even intoxicating.
However, for Constitution Hill to actually participate in a novice chase, everything needs to go very well. The instinct of everyone involved will be to stick with hurdles for another season—the safe, conventional option—at the first sign of any bump in the road.
There are a lot of things that could go wrong, including a hair-raising schooling session, a setback in training, a dry spell of weather that means there’s no give in the ground when a suitable novice chase is being sought, or some other factor I haven’t foreseen.
Because of this, even money was the wrong price for Constitution Hill to overcome obstacles in the upcoming term. If you don’t have anything better to do with that fiver, the revised odds of 4-7 might still be worth a try.
Like us, if you watched it, you too would have been amazed by Contitution Hill’s win in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Barry Geraghty was no different saying the following about him:
“There’s not much more we can say about Constitution Hill – again, he was brilliant in the Christmas Hurdle. I thought it would be impossible for him to impress us more, but he went and did so anyway.
Kempton is a sharp, fast track and you don’t normally get a horse winning a Grade 1, especially a two mile hurdle, around there by as many lengths as he put in.
A 17 length win in a Grade 1 is almost unheard of. Him, and only him, might get me out of retirement (joking), but in all seriousness, Nico [De Boinville] is doing a great job with him.”
He may have only been joking about coming out of retirement for him, but I imagine it would be tempting.
We are certainly all looking forward to seeing what more he can do at the Champion Hurdle on 14th March 2023.
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