Ever since their emphatic victories on the opening day of the last month’s Cheltenham Festival — Constitution Hill brilliantly breezing to a 22-length victory in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the unbeaten Honeysuckle defending her Champion Hurdle crown — all the talk has been surrounding Nicky Henderson’s youngster and Henry de Bromhead’s prized mare going head-to-head over hurdles.
Michael Buckley, the owner of the exciting Constitution Hill, was quick to claim that his horse would likely head to Ireland for the Punchestown Festival — with possible entries in both the Champion Novice Hurdle and Paddy Power Champion Hurdle now confirmed. Of course, at this stage that is no guarantee that the horse will make the trip across the Irish Sea, but it’s in the latter that he could clash with Honeysuckle.
De Bromhead, who asked for more respect to be shown to Honeysuckle after she extended her unbeaten run to 15 in the Champion Hurdle, has welcomed the competition from Constitution Hill — saying that ‘it would be brilliant if Buckley and co. really do decide to put their relatively inexperienced horse up against his proven mare.
“It would be brilliant. It’s what racing is about. I think it would be fantastic. If Michael is brave enough to take us on, fair play to him,” the Irish trainer told Racing TV. “What she has achieved, no other horse has achieved.
“I wouldn’t dare to say she is going to beat Constitution Hill. I can’t answer that. What she’s achieved is way beyond a lot of horses.
“Obviously, Constitution Hill was extremely impressive, all his figures were unreal, but she’s just so consistently at the top.
“I can’t answer who would win it, but I think it would be fascinating if they do takes us on, and wouldn’t it be amazing for the sport.”
Like Energumene and Shishkin’s battle in the chasing division this year, which albeit didn’t live up to expectations after their first meeting in the Clarence House Chase as Henderson’s horse was pulled up lame in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, it’s great that the top trainers are now willing to have these titanic tussles outside of the Cheltenham Festival.
But will we really see Constitution Hill and Honeysuckle go head-to-head at this stage of the former’s career? It just doesn’t seem likely. Emotions were running high when Buckley basically called out Honeysuckle, and now the dust has settled on what was admittedly a stunning performance from Constitution Hill, they may well have realized that next season is perhaps the right time to gun for Honeysuckle’s unbeaten record.
That said, there is very little to separate the pair in the online odds on horse racing — with Honeysuckle leading the way at 8/11, while Constitution Hill is narrowly behind at 11/8. Race sponsors Paddy Power have also dangled a carrot for the Constitution Hill camp, offering a £100,000 bonus to any UK-trained winner of the race.
Henderson is experienced enough not to fall for bait like that though, and with the Seven Barrows handler revealing he is going to sit down and have a talk with Buckley this week, it seems inevitable that the veteran trainer will try and sway the connections away from taking on Honeysuckle at this stage.
There will be no stopping the pair from meeting at least a couple of times next season, however, and that will surely be enough to keep the appetites of jump racing fans whet during the off-season!