Constitution Hill delivered and then some with a dominant run to win the Champion Hurdle in imperious fashion.
Going off at 4/11 on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, he became the shortest-priced winner of the race, taking victory by nine lengths to the delight of a raucous crowd.
State Man in second was unable to stay close with Constitution Hill, with the only danger the final hurdle and when that was just about cleared, trainer Nicky Henderson could breathe a huge sight of relief.
“That would bring tears to most eyes,” Henderson told BBC. “He is pretty unique.
“There is a brilliant team behind it all. You get a horse like this in a lifetime and we are lucky. That is only the sixth race of his life but this horse is going to extraordinary levels and we are lucky to be the custodians of it. He is so unflappable.”
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Jockey Nico de Boinville said: “I’m absolutely delighted, he has given me a terrific ride. He just winged every single hurdle, and it was just about when I pushed the button.
“This race proves how good he is - they all came to beat him today.”
Constitution Hill’s win was followed by a fairytale ending for Honeysuckle in the Mares’ Hurdle, as the mare made it four wins from four at Cheltenham in her final run. Rachael Blackmore and trainer Henry de Bromhead were both emotional in their celebrations after the race, remembering Jack de Bromhead, Henry’s 13-year-old son, who died while riding in a pony race last year.
Earlier in the day, kicking off the Festival, Facile Vega went off as favourite but was unable to get Willie Mullins off to the perfect start. The first eight home were all Irish, but it was Marine Nationale who stormed to victory in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by three and a quarter lengths, with Facile Vega in second after a poor jump at the last.
Mullins and Paul Townend did not have to wait long to get off the mark though, as El Fabiolo proved too strong for Jonbon in the Arkle. Dysart Dynamo took a very heavy fall at the last having made all the running, though thankfully was on his feet and fine after the race.
Corach Rambler then once again took the Ultima Handicap Chase after a brilliant ride from Derek Fox, getting the better of Fastorslow. The nine-year was swiftly backed into favouritism for next month’s Grand National.
Jazzy Matty won the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle in the penultimate race of the day, giving Michael O’Sullivan his second winner of the day after he also rode Marine Nationale to victory in the opener, while Mullins also doubled up as Gaillard Du Mesnil took an eventful National Hunt Chase.