Just seven runners went to post for the opening day Cheltenham Festival showpiece, the Champion Hurdle. The field consisted of four runners from British yards, along with three Irish raiders. Unlike many other events at the 2023 Festival, it was the home team who appeared to hold the ace in the pack, with the Nicky Henderson-trained superstar, Constitution Hill, heavily expected to extend his unbeaten record under rules.
Chief amongst the opposition was State Man, from the yard of the most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, Willie Mullins. Having swept the opposition in Ireland aside, could he be the horse to challenge the market leader? The others in the field looked to have a mountain to climb, although Vauban was a good winner of the previous year’s Triumph Hurdle, and Gordon Elliott’s Zanahiyr had finished third in this in 2022, only to then be disqualified.
- 1st – Constitution Hill 4/11F, Jockey: Nico de Boinville, Trainer: Nicky Henderson
- 2nd – State Man 7/2, Jockey: Paul Townend, Trainer: Willie Mullins
- 3rd – Zanahiyr 66/1, Jockey: Davy Russell, Trainer: Gordon Elliott
Prize Money Breakdown
- 1st – £253,215
- 2nd – £95,400
- 3rd – £47,745
- 4th – £23,850
- 5th – £11,970
- 6th – £5,985
- 7th – £2,970
Tote and Forecast Payouts
- Tote Win – £1.37
- Tote Places – 1st – £1.10, 2nd – £1.70
- Exacta – £1.70
- Computer Straight Forecast (CSF) – £1.68
- Trifecta – N/A
- Tricast – N/A
Whilst the vast majority of punters expected Constitution Hill to win this race, there was a slight difference of opinion in the preferred manner of victory. Some fans hoped that one of his rivals – most likely State Man – could at least give the mount of Nico de Boinville something to think about, whilst others wanted the Henderson star to display his superiority in no uncertain terms. In the end, it was the latter of those two scenarios which unfolded, as Constitution Hill proved to be in a completely different league to his six rivals.
I Like To Move It quickly made his way to the front when the tapes went up, as he attempted to deploy his customary trailblazing tactics. Not So Sleepy was the first to track him, but before too long, it was Constitution Hill sitting on the tail of the leader. State Man, meanwhile, was in the next wave of three, a couple of lengths behind the duo at the head of affairs. That order remained largely unchanged over the first three-quarters of the race.
As they approached the second last, I Like To Move It could give no more and weakened out of contention, but Constitution Hill was merely getting started. Pushed into the lead as they jumped the penultimate obstacle, by the time they rounded the final bend, it was clear that nothing else was going to get near the six-year-old. Powering right away up the hill, he ultimately crossed the line an easy nine lengths clear of State Man, who was best of the rest.
For Nicky Henderson, this represented a record-extending ninth win in the race, whilst Nico de Boinville completed the set of the big three Cheltenham contests, having previously won the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2016, 2018, and 2019, and Gold Cup in 2015.
- 1. Constitution Hill – SP: 4/11F, Trainer: Nicky Henderson, Jockey: Nico de Boinville
- 2. I Like To Move It – SP: 25/1, Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies, Jockey: Sam Twiston-Davies
- 3. Jason The Militant – SP: 250/1, Trainer: Philip Kirby, Jockey: Joe Williamson
- 4. Not So Sleepy – SP: 150/1, Trainer: Hughie Morrison, Jockey: Jonathan Burke
- 5. State Man – SP: 7/2, Trainer: Willie Mullins, Jockey: Paul Townend
- 6. Vauban – SP: 16/1, Trainer: Willie Mullins, Jockey: Danny Mullins
- 7. Zanahiyr – SP: 66/1, Trainer: Gordon Elliott, Jockey: Davy Russell