Jumps superstar Constitution Hill's flawless campaign last season was still not enough to elevate him above hurdling greats Istabraq and Faugheen when official handicappers revealed their end-of-term ratings on Wednesday – and he might never get the chance to better them as a crack at chasing remains very much in connections' minds.
The news the Michael Buckley-owned Constitution Hill, who won the Fighting Fifth, Christmas Hurdle, Champion Hurdle and Aintree Hurdle under Nico de Boinville, has ended up on a mark of 175 – 1lb shy of Istabraq and Faugheen – in the Anglo-Irish classifications was greeted in a relaxed and respectful manner by Nicky Henderson, who said: "I'm proud to think he's up there with those horses."
Hurricane Fly is the only other hurdler to have hit 175 since the rankings were established for the 1999-2000 campaign.
What the laid-back champion does next has yet to be decided and Henderson added: "He's not schooled over fences because the ground dried up very quickly and there might have been a window when the ground was okay, but it was when there was a break for jump racing and Nico was away.
"The horse is off on his summer holiday now and is in the field with Shishkin and some other mates. He'll come back to Seven Barrows in the first or second week of July, but he looks fantastic and the weather has been great. I went to see him last week and he was just himself; he came up to me, nuzzled me, rested his head against me and then went back to sleep."
Buckley, a close friend of Henderson's, has openly dared to dream of emulating Dawn Run, the only horse to have won the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup.
"We will school him over fences," the Lambourn trainer said. "It was always the plan and we will, but people must appreciate we can't do that for a few months now. We might get some rain in September and then go and jump five fences and see what he tells us, but there's no point switching him to fences unless we think he can stay, and I do mean three miles.
"That was the thing, about matching Dawn Run. Some horses can go from two miles to three miles and I've no doubt he could because his racing brain is so good. It is possible, but I'm making no promises and Nico, Michael and I haven't discussed it.
"I remember when we sent Altior and Buveur D'Air over fences and soon realised it wasn't very clever as Altior was brilliant and a fantastic chaser, but Buveur's technique was more of a hurdler and he went on to win two Champion Hurdles. We got that decision right and it made sense to split them up. Jonbon has gone through his novice chase stage, so there's an opportunity for a top-class novice chaser at Seven Barrows if we want one, but have I got another Champion Hurdle horse? Possibly not."
The leading novice hurdler in Britain or Ireland last season was the 160-rated Impaire Et Passe, while Gold Cup hero Galopin Des Champs came out top overall and of the chasers with a mark of 179, which does not match the 180 achieved by the race's previous winner A Plus Tard in 2022.
Energumene, a Willie Mullins-trained stablemate of Galopin Des Champs, won Champion Chases at Cheltenham and Punchestown and was second best on 175, 2lb above Shishkin, Britain's leading chaser who won the Ascot Chase and the Bowl at Aintree.
El Fabiolo, successful in the Arkle, was the best novice chaser on 170.
Galopin Des Champs 179
L'Homme Presse 170
El Fabiolo 170
Ahoy Senor 169
Constitution Hill 175
State Man 165
Sire Du Berlais 161
Klassical Dream 160
Impaire Et Passe 160
Dashel Drasher 159
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