I never thought I’d own a Cheltenham horse – now I could have the greatest of all in Constitution Hill
THERE’S nothing arrogant about Michael Buckley, the owner of barnstorming Unibet Champion Hurdle hotpot Constitution Hill.
It’s just a fact when Buckley says: “If the horse turns up in his best form, one of the others is going to have to be a hell of an animal to beat him.”
GettyMichael Buckley has backed his horse to come out on top[/caption]
GettyConstitution Hill stormed to victory in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year[/caption]
You are not kidding, Michael!
Constitution Hill looked like a horse from another planet this time last year when annihilating the field in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
This term he’s consolidated that impression, bounding clear in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and at Kempton in the Christmas Hurdle.
It’s the stuff of dreams for Buckley, who was gripped by racing as a teenager.
He explained: “I have been going to Cheltenham since I was about 19 and in those days the Festival was three days and there were three championship races.
“The idea I would ever have a horse good enough to run in a Champion Hurdle was ridiculous. Having a horse of any sort then was a dream.
“It’d be a thrill to win the race and a wonderful thing to do.”
It has not all been plain sailing for Buckley as a racehorse owner, such is the nature of the beast.
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However, he’s had some extraordinary times matched by few others including a Queen Mother Champion Chase victory with Finian’s Rainbow and the narrowest defeat on the Flat via Toast Of New York in a Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Buckley continued: “I’m a relatively small owner, so to have been lucky enough to have had Toast Of New York and Finian’s Rainbow is remarkable.
“Now I have Constitution Hill, who at the moment seems to have the world at his feet.
“What can one say? It’s a pleasure, obviously, and kind of an honour to have a horse such as Constitution Hill.
“People seem to love him so much and everybody I meet, and many of those are people who stop me in the street, well they want him to do so well.
“He has plenty of goodwill behind him and I hope that he carries on pleasing people and runs as well as he has done in the past.”
Many will expect Constitution Hill to blitz his opposition this afternoon live on ITV.
But victory is all Buckley wants. The trainer said: “Should he win, I think the manner he does it will depend a little bit on the ground.
“He’s won on good ground and put up tremendous times — and it was deep when he landed the Tolworth so I hope he’s ‘ground agnostic’.
“I think people would like to see him win by a decent margin, but if he wins narrowly I won’t feel any sort of anti-climax.
“Let’s hope he does do it well and people’s view of him is possibly even enhanced.
“I don’t imagine there will be better days than winning a Champion Hurdle should it happen.”
Part of the enjoyment for Buckley comes from teaming up with his old pal in trainer Nicky Henderson, as well as regular jockey Nico de Boinville.
Buckley explained: “I’ve had horses with Nicky since 1983/84 and one of the reasons why it has been such a pleasure is because he’s such a sweet person.
“We have a fine time celebrating when things go right but we also get through the rough days together.
“Nico is a really nice person as well, so I’d love to win the race with them.
“Nicky wasn’t there at Newcastle or for the Tolworth at Sandown, so to have him there at Cheltenham on such a big day if it all comes right will be fantastic, really fantastic.”
But what about today’s opposition?
Buckley said: “State Man is obviously a good horse.
“He’s won three Grade 1s this year and Willie Mullins is a great guy and a brilliant trainer. He looks the best of the Irish.
“Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse (I Like To Move It) ran a brilliant race in the Kingwell at Wincanton.
“I’m worried about everything — getting there, getting a clear run and don’t forget eight hurdles — and all of the opponents.
“That said, it doesn’t look as though it will be a deep field in terms of number of runners so I’d doubt a huge shock.”
The only true turn-up will be if Constitution Hill fails to score. That’s not arrogance. It’s reality.
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