Constitution Hill will compete against five opponents on Thursday in the William Hill Aintree Hurdle as he attempts to defend his perfect record and stellar reputation.
When his performance in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last month made it six from six under the rules, Nicky Henderson’s mount solidified his superstar status.
Before relations decide whether to pursue a chasing career next term, the six-year-old will be at prohibitive odds to finish his season with a first success over two and a half miles.
The superstar mare Epatante won the Aintree Hurdle for Henderson last year, and although she couldn’t compete with her outstanding stablemate in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle or the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton earlier this season, she will do so once again to defend her title.
Zanahiyr, trained by Gordon Elliott, and I Like To Move It, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, finished third and sixth, respectively, in the Champion Hurdle.
Ahoy Senor, a Gold Cup loser saddled by Lucinda Russell, will be ridden by champion rider Brian Hughes in place of his usual partner Derek Fox. Conflated, a third-place finisher for Elliott in the Gold Cup, and Henry de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard, the Gold Cup victor last year but pulled up this time around, both come from Ireland.
After finishing second in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham while holding on, Henderson’s Shishkin will be making his debut over three miles, so it will be interesting to watch how he does.
Stage Star and Banbridge will clash
Banbridge, a Cheltenham absentee, and Stage Star, a Nicholls-trained horse who won the Turners’ Novices’ Chase at the Festival, square off in the Racehorse Lotto Manifesto Novices’ Chase, the first of four Grade One races on the first day of the Grand National meeting.
Visionarian (Peter Fahey), Saint Roi (Willie Mullins), and Straw Fan Jack are also scheduled to report for duty.
The Mullins-trained Zenta, who finished third in the Triumph at Cheltenham, has set the bar for the eleven four-year-olds who have entered the Jewson Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.
The main threats to the Irish challenger seem to be Gary Moore’s pair of Bo Zenith and Perseus Way, O’Brien’s Nusret, the Milton Harris-trained Scriptwriter, and Greyval from Fergal O’Brien’s yard. All of these horses not competed at the Festival.