CONSTITUTION Hill confirmed himself as a rising star of British National Hunt racing and breeding on Saturday at Sandown Park when he powered to an impressive 12-length victory in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle. He is now favourite for the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March with many layers.
This was the third time the five-year-old had faced a starter, and the second time under rules.
He was eye-catching when strolling to 14-length success over the same course and distance on his debut last month, prompting owner Michael Buckley to believe he could have something special on his hands. Saturday’s win would seem to confirm that view.
The son of Blue Bresil (Smadoun), now based at Rathbarry Stud’s Glenview division, was conceived when the sire was standing his first season at Yorton Farm Stud. He was purchased for Buckley by Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows at the Goffs UK Spring HIT/P2P Sale last year and he cost connections £120,000. He was sold as a foal for €16,500 at Tattersalls Ireland by Throckmorton Court Stud on behalf of breeder Sally Nootts.
With a small band of four broodmares at her home in Belbroughton, Worcestershire, Nootts was thrilled to breed a Grade 1 winner. “I’m still flying, it’s fantastic,” she said. “It makes it all worthwhile when something like this happens. I know it’s not my horse anymore, but I feel like it is.”
The breeder provided some background on the family and the gelding’s relaxed temperament. “He was my first foal out of Queen Of The Stage, and then there is a Flemensfirth that’s due to race next year. They are all laid-back, they’re all the same. His mother’s quite quirky really; she frets a bit more, but everything she’s produced seems so laid-back.
“I have a filly to sell, she’s going to Doncaster this month. I have them here, then they go to Simon [Balding] at Throckmorton when they’re born, and he takes them to the sales for me to sell at six months.
“It’s quite funny all this has happened, because I’m downsizing to three mares and I did think about selling Queen Of The Stage, and it was Simon who said ‘you’ve done all the hard work, it’s too early’. Only a couple of months ago we had this conversation, so obviously it was a very good move not to do anything. Roll on Cheltenham!”
The victory was also a tonic for Henderson who has been suffering from Covid. He purchased Constitution Hill from Warren Ewing and the handler knew instantly that the horse was something out of the ordinary when he came to the yard from Barry Geraghty’s farm, where he had spent his early years, having been purchased by Ewing as a foal.
“I knew he was going to be special, he was in a different class. I told everybody that he was as good a horse as I ever sat on,” recalled Ewing. “He looks great and he could be anything. He is a horse that could excel over any trip as he is so relaxed and has a lovely, laid-back attitude and a nice presence. He doesn’t worry about anything.”
That said, Constitution Hill did not win his only start in a point-to-point, going down by a head to Anyharminasking who opened his track-winning account this week for Jonjo O’Neill at the fourth time of asking. Commenting on the race, P2P.ie said: “Constitution Hill would have to be considered very unlucky not to have made a winning debut at Tipperary in a four-year-old geldings’ maiden when a serious error at the final fence would seem to have cost him victory.
“Racing from the front, the Blue Bresil gelding was taken on quite early in the back straight, a point in the race at which the pair very swiftly left their nine other rivals trailing behind them, so much so that they were six to eight lengths clear of the pack jumping the fourth last. Showing a really likeable resolution to pull out a two-length advantage coming to the final fence, Constitution Hill made a serious error which came close to unshipping his rider. The mistake saw him not only lose all his momentum, but also his lead.
“To his credit, despite the exertions of quickening so notably early in the back straight, he battled gamely up the run-in, so much so that he only went down by a head to a rival who was subsequently sold for €145,000. There is a lot to like about this four-year-old.” How right they were.
Ewing was thrilled when Henderson chose Constitution Hill. “I am delighted for Michael Buckley and Nicky Henderson. We sold Brain Power (US Grand National winner) to them as well and they have bought a few good horses from us. I love selling horses to Nicky because you know that they are going to a good home, will be brought on properly and given the time they need to develop.”
Constitution Hill was one of seven horses consigned by Ewing’s Bernice Stables at last year’s Goffs UK Spring Sale, and four of them have since run for their new connections with all four being successful. “Git Maker won well first time out last week in a maiden hurdle for Jamie Snowden and he is a horse who will be at his best when he goes over further; he won his point-point easily by 10 lengths.
“Universal Dave won his maiden hurdle for Alan King by 13 lengths and War Soldier won his bumper on his first run for Sandy Thomson, and he looks a nice staying chaser in the making too,” Ewing said.
Constitution Hill is the first foal from Queen Of The Stage and he is followed by Land Genie (Flemensfirth) who cost Jonjo and Jacqui O’Neill €60,000 at last year’s Goffs Land Rover Sale, a handsome return on his €38,000 foal purchase price. The mare has a three-year-old filly and a yearling filly, both by Jack Hobbs (Halling). The latter was born on June 9th, and the mare was not covered subsequently.
Queen Of The Stage won twice over hurdles at four, five weeks apart, and trained by different trainers. Having been successful for Robin Dickin, she was sold for £18,500 at the 2014 Ascot December Sale and moved to Nick Williams. She won on her first start for him and was subsequently placed in the Listed Weatherbys Jane Seymour Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Sandown.
While Constitution Hill and his dam are the first blacktype performers in a few generations, a notable feature of the female line is that all the mares are by stallions who enjoyed lots of success with their runners and with their daughters at stud. Queen Of The Stage is a daughter of King’s Theatre (Sadler’s Wells) and she is out of the winning hurdler Supreme Du Casse (Supreme Leader).
The next dam Pede Gale (Strong Gale) failed to win, though she was placed in a bumper, over hurdles and fences, racing from four to nine and making 17 starts. She did produce three winning offspring and she was a sibling to six winners, the best of which was the blacktype-winning hurdle mare My Sunny Glen (Furry Glen). They were out of the unraced Deep Adventure (Deep Run).
A third Grade 1 winner for his sire and the stallions’ 14th blacktype winner, Constitution Hill joins the brilliant L’Autonomie and the Grade 1 December Hurdle scorer Mick Jazz at the top table for Blue Bresil, a sire who will be force to reckon with for years to come.