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Constitution Hill at the Cheltenham Festival 2023 (Photo courtesy of Racing TV)
Constitution Hill at the Cheltenham Festival 2023 (Photo courtesy of Racing TV)

The 2023 Cheltenham Festival was once again a successful event on the international National Hunt calendar. There were some memorable performances that will go down in history in the sport.

This year’s Festival also gave us an insight into who the biggest stars are going to be in jump racing over the next few years across the respective divisions, with Constitution Hill and Galopin Des Champs among those who stole the headlines.

Constitution Hill Produced Monster Performance to Showcase His Class

Heading into this year’s Champion Hurdle, Constitution Hill had already established himself as a hurdler who could be very special. He has won all five of his previous appearances over hurdles comfortably, including in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Fighting Fifth Hurdle, and Christmas Hurdle, three Grade One races.

The Champion Hurdle was set to be the horse’s biggest test so far, with 2023 Irish Champion Hurdle winner State Man being a strong rival. However, Nicky Henderson’s star blew the field away again, coming home at a canter at Cheltenham. Just like he had previously, he scored with ease in arguably what was the performance of the week.

Constitution Hill is now being compared with the greatest hurdlers of all time, and he has left his connections with a big decision to make over the summer months. They need to decide if they should remain over hurdles and win as many Champion Hurdles as possible, or if to switch their horse to fences to take on races like the Arkle Trophy and Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The record for the most Champion Hurdle wins at the Festival is three victories. Five horses have completed a hat-trick in the race. Given he is only six years old, Constitution Hill could be set to at least match that record should he stay in the 2m division.

Michael Buckley, the owner of Constitution Hill, has hinted that he would love to win the Gold Cup one day. His star horse has yet to run over further than 2m under Rules, but if he wants to take on the challenge, the Champion Hurdle winner may be trained differently next season.

Dawn Run is the only horse in history to have won both the Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup in her career. She prevailed in the 2m premier hurdle race in 1984, while two years later, she showed her class over fences to win the Gold Cup under the hands of Jonjo O’Neill.

Galopin Des Champs Is a Real Champion

The Cheltenham Gold Cup was a thrilling race this year, as the two star chasers from the division, Galopin Des Champs and Bravemansgame, fought it out going up the hill, with the Irish horse coming out on top by seven lengths in the end.

Galopin Des Champs has shown a lot of talent from the early stages of his chase career, however, he made an error at the Cheltenham Festival in 2022, coming down at the final fence when clear in the Turners Novices’ Chase. Willie Mullins’ runner made up for that mistake by winning the Blue Riband event of the meeting this year.

The performance he produced in the feature race of the week has been described as the best in the Gold Cup since Kauto Star won the contest in 2009. The seven-year-old jumped well and he produced his trademark turn of foot after the last fence to stretch away from a quality field.

With wins also coming in the Irish Gold Cup and John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase in the 2022/23 campaign, it has been an excellent season for the Irish horse. He is now a long way ahead of the likes of Bravemansgame, A Plus Tard, and Noble Yeats in his division. Mullins will be hoping he can replicate what his former stablemate Al Boum Photo achieved in 2020 by defending his crown in the race next season. He is the +150 favorite in the betting to prevail again.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is one of the most popular races to watch and bet on around the world, particularly in the UK and the USA. In the latter country, you can bet legally on horse racing in 41 of the 50 states. Sites like Fanduel and TVG not only allow racing fans to bet on the biggest races in the UK like the Gold Cup, but they offer risk-free bets up to $1,000 to use on the Cheltenham Festival feature race to put on Galopin Des Champs or one of his challengers in 2024.

Energumene Proved Last Year Was No Fluke in Champion Chase

In the feature race on day two of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, Energumene defended his crown in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The Irish chaser proved he remains the leading horse in the 2m division, as he was a comfortable winner of the Championship contest.

The nine-year-old has suffered just one defeat this season and that came in the Cotswold Chase on Trails Day at Cheltenham back in January when he finished behind Editeur Du Gite and Edwardstone respectively. He reversed the form with his rivals at the Festival, with his best performance of the campaign so far.

Energumene will get the chance to match history for the most wins in the Champion Chase next year. Badsworth Boy won the 2m race in three consecutive years between 1983 and 1985. Should the defending champion replicate that, he will achieve what Moscow Flyer, Master Minded, Sprinter Sacre, and Altior all failed to do.

The challenge to Energumene next season could come from his own yard. Arkle Trophy winner El Fabiolo looks to have a big future. He defeated Jonbon in the novice race on day one to add the 2m prize to the Irish Arkle he won at the Dublin Racing Festival. Mullins may have to let them face each other next season in what would be a fascinating clash.

Impaire Et Passe Prevailed in Ballymore with Ease

One of the most impressive novice hurdlers at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival was Impaire Et Passe, the winner of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. The five-year-old traveled strongly throughout that contest. He soon went clear of the field when they turned for home at Prestbury Park.

Mullins could have run his horse in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, but he chose to separate him from Facile Vega. With the latter beaten in the curtain raiser at the meeting, it is Impaire Et Passe who comes out of Cheltenham with a bigger reputation.

Although he ran over 2m5f in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, the horse is likely to drop back down in distance next season, with the Champion Hurdle set to be his leading target. That could lead to him taking on Constitution Hill. Should the defending champion be campaigned over fences, the second-season hurdler may be the horse to beat in the division.

Impaire Et Passe has only had three appearances over hurdles so the best may be ahead of him over the next 12 months. He has now won each of his three assignments by large margins, with victories coming over 2m, 2m3f, and 2m5f.

Many of the Cheltenham winners will be in action at either Aintree or Punchestown in the final month of the season, while the countdown is already on for the 2024 Cheltenham Festival next March.

You can find more interesting articles in our section on Racing & Wagering.

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