Alex Hammond blog: Constitution Hill can become the best ever

Sky Sports Racing presenter Alex Hammond looks ahead to a pivotal weekend in the new National Hunt season, featuring the return of several star names.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t a fan of the scorching summer. This cool-blooded northerner is as thrilled as every National Hunt trainer in the country that we have now officially moved into autumn and the rain has finally come.

Not only am I enjoying digging out my big coat, but we are now being treated to the anticipation of watching some serious racehorses on the track. None more so than the return of Constitution Hill at Ascot on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Racing.

This unassuming five-year-old has been exceptional in his short career to date and the manner of his victories have been mind boggling for a novice.

Bear in mind he won the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in a time five seconds faster than Honeysuckle’s Champion Hurdle victory two hours later. He blew stablemate Jonbon away at Cheltenham to saunter to a 22-length victory without seemingly coming off the bridle.

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Supreme superstar Constitution Hill is all set to make his seasonal return in Saturday’s Coral Hurdle at Ascot, live on Sky Sports Racing.

We’ve been exceptionally lucky to see some outstanding horses on the flat this season with the exploits of Baaeed and Flightline giving us something to embrace. However, Baaeed was beaten on his swansong, and we didn’t see nearly enough of Flightline with his racing career over almost as soon as he had seeped into our consciousness.

Constitution Hill should be different though. This is a horse who should stick around for years, and he has the raw ability to be the best we have ever seen. I’m not getting carried away, that’s a cold, hard fact.

So, if you think about moaning about the weather and the fact you will get wet and cold when you step outside, think about Constitution Hill and embrace autumn as I have and let that thought warm the cockles of your heart.

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Enjoy in glorious slow-motion as Supreme Novices’ Hurdle star Constitution Hill warms up for his seasonal return in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot, live on Sky Sports Racing on November 19.

Keep the faith, it’s Venetia’s time!

Ascot say on their website that the November Racing Weekend provides the perfect opportunity to see some of the stars of the future as a collection of promising novice hurdlers and chasers traditionally line up for this meeting.

They have hit the nail on the head there because we are being completely spoiled on Saturday. L’Homme Presse takes the first steps on his journey to the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase.

I’m not completely alarmed that his trainer Venetia Williams hasn’t had a winner with her jumpers since April because she traditionally shuts up shop in the summer months. This month she has had 23 runners (at the time of writing) and no winners but 11 of those runners have finished either second or third. Now the rain has come it’s officially Venetia-time!

L’Homme Presse comes with a remarkable back-story and one you don’t see very often. His owners bought him knowing he had a tendon injury and gave him time. He had two years away from the track and their patience has been royally rewarded. His win in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase was sublime.

His part owner, Andy Edwards, was playing down this return to action when interviewed on Sky Sports Racing this week. That’s understandable as it’s his first step on a long journey this season, but I expect to see him win here and hope we have something to savour with the winter months in mind.

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Andy Edwards has issued a warning for L’Homme Presse backers, with his star likely to improve for the run at Ascot on Saturday.

If that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, we also have Arkle winner Edwardstone running on Saturday (I’ll be fizzing on air on Saturday!). He had to miss the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham last week because of the unseasonably dry conditions but instead he’s taking an old-fashioned route by carrying top weight in a handicap.

He has to give 10lbs+ to his rivals in the Jim Barry Wines Hurst Park Handicap Chase and that may not be an easy task. His trainer Alan King isn’t afraid to take that route with one of his star horses though. Trueshan had to give lumps of weight away in the Northumberland Plate when he reverted to handicap company due to the lack of rain (that again) in the summer for his top-class stayer. It paid off, and he emerged from the contest as a true heavyweight.

Edwardstone and Tom Cannon win the Arkle Novices' Chase
Image: Edwardstone and Tom Cannon win the Arkle Novices’ Chase

Edwardstone has to start somewhere, and King said he was uneasy about beginning in the Tingle Creek at the beginning of December, so we get to enjoy him at Ascot. It’s a hot contest and I like Thyme White, who was impressive when he won over course and distance three weeks ago; he’s my each-way pick in the contest for trainer Paul Nicholls, who has been dominating many of the Saturday races so far this season.

On top of all that, we have the Betfair Chase at Haydock where Gold Cup winner A Plus Tard tries to emulate his victory in this race 12-months ago on his seasonal return. Much has been made of the small field with only five declarations, but it still looks like a cracking race.

A Plus Tard pulls clear to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup under Rachael Blackmore
Image: A Plus Tard pulls clear to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup under Rachael Blackmore

I can’t see anything beating the hot favourite on form and hopefully this is his first step en-route to meeting L’Homme Presse in four months’ time.

I know Cheltenham isn’t the be all and end all, but all roads lead there, like it or not, and with horses of this quality on show at the weekend we need to dream. Now, dig out your big coat and enjoy the show.


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