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I support Willie Mullins like a football team but I still want English favourite Constitution Hill to win

Roy Curtis


Constitution Hill is a racing superstar

Constitution Hill is a racing superstar

Constitution Hill is a racing superstar

Michael Jordan, incinerating the laws of gravity, up and declining to come down, somehow surfing high above the hardwood on barrel waves of air.

Diego Maradona, reimagining the planet’s most capable defenders as slalom poles, ball velcroed to his toes, diamond glistening in his earlobe, squat body lithe as a cobra as he salsas and zigzags.

Tiger Woods, a crimson-uniformed killer, demigod of the fairways, dimpled ball and the rest of the golfing world surrendering to his magnetic aura.

There is something life-affirming in having a ringside seat as an athlete announces his or her greatness, separating themselves from the rest of the field.

At Cheltenham today, that tantalising prospect looms.

Constitution Hill, an equine freak, a four-legged Usain Bolt, might have been sired by the winged and divine Pegasus.

In the Champion Hurdle today, there is the arresting possibility Nicky Henderson’s outlandishly talented speedball could announce himself as a 21st-century Arkle.

An animal so athletically gifted that he makes the very best of his rivals look like they are toiling in a field of treacle.

He didn’t so much win the Supreme at last year’s Festival as gallop into a different post-code, a distinct time zone.

Watching a re-run of that extraordinary announcement of a special talent, it was as if a remote control had been invented, allowing the viewer to fast-forward one horse as the rest of the picture moves at normal speed.

Constitution Hill came up that storied incline propelled by a heavenly wind that not only refused to assist his rivals but seemed to gust at hurricane force in their faces.

The Cotswolds grass beneath the winner's feet was transformed into a verdant, hurtling airport travelator, allowing him to swallow up the ground as the rest of the field laboured and gasped.

By the end, he was 22 lengths clear, alone on an island of brilliance, the only danger that he might be afflicted by the loneliness of the solitary castaway.

That one of the animals he effortlessly trounced that day, his stablemate Jonbon, is formidable enough to be disputing favouritism for today’s Arkle – the biggest race of the year for novice chasers – goes some way to revealing the scale of Constitution Hill's achievement.

Of course, another of the sport’s charms is that the future is never cast in stone.

So it is that a resurgent Manchester United can concede seven at Anfield, Mike Tyson can be KO’d by a Buster Douglas uppercut, and Seamus Darby can open a fatal gash in the hull of Kerry’s unsinkable five-in-a-row galleon.

Constitution Hill has won his five races by a combined 77 lengths. He is a shorter price to win his first Champion Hurdle than the celebrated Istabraq was to win his third 23 years ago.

His form is sufficiently imperious to persuade Honeysuckle’s connections to duck a shot at three-in-a-row immortality and opt instead for a Mare’s Hurdle farewell.

But there are hurdles to be jumped and rivals, led by the Willie Mullins pair, State Man and Vauban, to be beaten.

I’ve had an ante-post each-way punt on Vauban, last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner, who runs in the familiar pink and green Ricci silks.

I support Mullins the way others cheer for their favourite football team. And still, I desperately want the English favourite to win.

Transcendence quickens the pulse precisely because it is so rare. Watching an absolute master at work – Jordan, Maradona, Woods – has that rare capacity to electrify.

In the minutes after 3.30 today, an uncommon and jolting voltage will hopefully surge across the Cotswolds, the charged calling card of a stimulating equine freak.

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