|Venue: Cheltenham Racecourse Dates: 14-17 March Races: 13:30-17:30 GMT Main race: 15:30|
|Coverage: Commentaries on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra, with feature races on BBC Radio 5 Live. Racecards, live text, results & reports on the BBC Sport website & app|
Constitution Hill produced a memorable performance to win the Champion Hurdle while Honeysuckle was another brilliant victor at the Cheltenham Festival.
Unbeaten 4-11 favourite Constitution Hill, ridden by Nico de Boinville for trainer Nicky Henderson, triumphed by nine lengths from runner-up State Man.
“That is only the sixth race of his life but this horse is going to extraordinary levels.” said Henderson.
Honeysuckle won the Mares’ Hurdle under Rachael Blackmore.
The 2021 and 2022 champion hurdler, trained by Henry de Bromhead, got the better of Love Envoi, with Queens Brook in third.
It was a poignant and emotional victory in what was billed as the mare’s last run, six months after the trainer’s 13-year-old son Jack had died in a riding accident.
“We all wish a very special kid was here but he’ll be looking down on us,” said Blackmore.
Constitution Hill is ‘a superstar’
In the Champion Hurdle, Constitution Hill always travelled prominently, cruised into the lead and powered up the hill in impressive style.
“That would bring tears to most eyes. He is pretty unique,” said Henderson.
The six-year-old had won his previous five races, including last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, by an aggregate of 77 lengths, leading to suggestions he could be developing into one of the greats.
And he lived up to the hype with an almost foot-perfect display, barring an edgy jump at the last flight.
“He had loads left, he’s an exceptional horse, a superstar,” said De Boinville.
‘Fairytale’ win for Honeysuckle
Blackmore had created history on Honeysuckle two years ago when becoming the first female rider to win the Champion Hurdle.
It was part of a glorious 16-race winning run for the mare, which came to an end with defeat at Fairyhouse in December.
Another loss in the Irish Champion Hurdle seemed to indicate her star was on the wane, but she delighted the Cheltenham crowd with her fourth victory at the Festival, having also won the Mares’ Hurdle in 2020.
“You dream of a fairytale and more often than not, it doesn’t happen, but we are grateful it did. She’s just an amazing mare,” said De Bromhead.
“We’ve had a very tough year. We feel very privileged to have so many people behind us.
“It’s just a massive result. We know Jack is always with us and I’m sure he was here on Rachael’s shoulder. Honeysuckle has been a huge part of our life and Jack just adored her – so she as much did it for him as she did for all of us.
“Rachael and Honey are two divas together and I’m going to keep saying that now as it really annoys Rachael.”
Round-up of other races
The meeting began on soft ground with the traditional Cheltenham roar from a 60,000 crowd which greets the start of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
And the noise ramped up even further as 9-2 chance Marine Nationale led home an Irish clean sweep from favourite Facile Vega and Diverge. The first eight home were trained in Ireland.
Jockey Mikey O’Sullivan was winning on only his second Festival ride for trainer and owner Barry Connell.
And the rider sealed a double when taking the juvenile handicap hurdle on 18-1 chance Jazzy Matty, trained by Gordon Elliott.
El Fabiolo brought trainer Willie Mullins his 89th career victory at the meeting when landing the Arkle Chase from Jonbon.
The winner’s stablemate and long-time leader Dysart Dynamo suffered a bad late fall but to cheers from the crowd, he eventually got to his feet and was led away.
Corach Rambler took the Ultima Handicap Chase for the second year running for Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell.
Derek Fox prevailed on the 6-1 joint favourite by a neck from Fastorslow and the winner now looks set for next month’s Grand National at Aintree.
In the concluding National Hunt Chase, Mahler Mission had stormed clear but came down at the penultimate fence.
That left the way for a fifth Irish victory of the day, and second for Mullins, as favourite Gaillard Du Mesnil won for the trainer’s son Patrick.
Malinello, trained by Ben Pauling, suffered a fatal injury after a fall in Tuesday’s final race.
A racecourse spokesperson said: “Sadly Malinello sustained an injury in the final race of the day. He was attended to by the experienced on-course veterinary team and assessed immediately, but very sadly passed away. Our thoughts are with all his connections.”
What’s on Wednesday?
Reigning champion Energueme takes on six rivals, including Edwardstone and Editeur Du Gite, in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday.
The Willie Mullins-trained winner shocked odds-on favourite Shishkin when taking the race 12 months ago under Paul Townend.
Energumene runs in the blue-and-white colours of owner Tony Bloom, chairman of Brighton and Hove Albion, while Editeur Du Gite carries the red, white and blue favoured by the Crystal Palace-supporting Preston family.
Edwardstone, who won the the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham 12 months ago, was beaten a head by Editeur Du Gite back at the track on Festival Trials Day in January.
13:30 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, 2m 5f
14:10 – Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, 3m 1/2f
14:50 – Coral Cup Hurdle (Handicap Hurdle Race), 2m 5f
15:30 – Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, 2m
16:10 – Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, 3m 6f
16:50 – Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase, 2m 1/2f
17:30 – Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Standard Open NH Flat Race), 2m 1/2f
13:15-18:00 – BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra