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Ginger Joe - Cheltenham 2024 - Champion Hurdle Preview

Publish Date: 29/02/2024
Fact checked by: James Leeland
Key Points
  • My Champion Hurdle preview and predictions
  • Constitution Hill – breaking news
  • Next up, my take on the Arkle Chase

Constitution Hill’s Champion Hurdle comeback in doubt!

Next up we have the Champion Hurdle, and there has been a huge shake up in the market since the news that last year's winner Constitution Hill scoped badly after his racecourse gallop at Kempton on Tuesday morning. There have been video replays of this all over social media, showing clearly that he was left way behind, which is highly uncharacteristic for him.

With Constitution Hill’s bid for back-to-back Champion Hurdles in doubt, naturally, this has blown the race wide open. Nicky Henderson has mentioned that there is still a chance he will make it to the Festival, but he needs a clear scope first and it doesn’t leave connections much time to get him 100% right.

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The Champion Hurdle 2m 1/2f - Tuesday 12 March - Preview and predictions

The highlight race of Tuesday’s Festival action is the Champion Hurdle, where Constitution Hill has been the short-priced favourite for the entire NH season. In fact, he has been as short as 1/4 in the market since his win at Kempton on Boxing Day. But now, there are some serious doubts about him running at Cheltenham at all.

Constitution Hill

Constitution Hill needs no introduction. He is eight out of eight over Hurdles and hasn’t even needed to come off the bridle to win any of them, including the time he beat State Man by a whole nine lengths. But even before this current news broke, there was a lot of talk about Constitution Hill’s evident lack of racecourse appearances.

In fact, we have only seen him once this season, which is never an ideal prep for Cheltenham. And now with the news of the dirty scope, this has become a genuine cause for concern when we are so close to the big day. But basically, if he does somehow manage to turn up, he is going to win. Full stop.

State Man

State Man is already an eight-time Grade 1 winner, so his form looks very good indeed. He has had a completely different campaign to Constitution Hill this season and it has worked out excellently from start to finish.

He has won all three of his starts in a very good and professional fashion, beating some top-class rivals each time. State Man has been labelled as “unfortunate” to be racing in the same era as Con Hill, but if his rival doesn’t turn up, then he is absolutely the next best horse in the race.

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Irish Point

Prior to the news about Constitution Hill, Gordon Elliott had mentioned that Irish Point could end up running here instead of in the Stayers’ Hurdle, so I expect that he is even more tempted now. With Con Hill out of the running, many think Irish Point would have a chance of picking up some place money, but he prefers a longer trip and I’m not convinced that running here will work out for him.

He does have some form over two miles, having won two Grade 3s, but those fields weren’t overly strong, so if he does line up here, I’m not convinced he’s quick enough to win. In his latest run over three miles, he was able to quicken off a slow pace and he looked every inch a top draw stayer, so I’d much prefer to see him in the Stayers’ Hurdle personally, but this game is all about the prize money at the end of the day.

Luccia

Nicky Henderson has also mentioned that he intends to run Luccia in this race. Now there is no doubt that she is a fine mare, but personally I wouldn’t have thought she would be up to this level. Of course, it’s entirely possible that running in a better race like this will bring a little more out of her, but even then, she already has a lot to find here against the geldings.

Nemean Lion

I think Kerry Lee’s Nemean Lion is one horse that could pick up some nice prize money, but he will need soft ground to perform at his best. Last time out at Wincanton, he beat Colonel Mustard by a decent margin, showing plenty of ability and travelling sweetly on the heavy going.  If it turns out to be really soft on the day, he may well surprise us all, but in any event, I think he’s the best of the rest.

My Champion Hurdle prediction

If Constitution Hill lines up, I think he wins, but if he doesn’t run, then State Man has a massive chance. It will certainly be interesting to see how the story unfolds between now and the Champion Hurdle.

  1. Constitution Hill
  2. State Man
  3. Nemean Lion

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