Cheltenham Festival Day One Review: Constitution Hill shines once again as Honeysuckle says goodbye with a win

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Two of jump racing’s true superstars topped the bill on day one of the festival.

Constitution Hill more than lived up to the pre-race hype as one of jump racing’s modern greats eased home in the Champion Hurdle on a dramatic first day of the Cheltenham Festival.

With Nico de Boinville on board once again, the superstar 6-year-old maintained an unbeaten record by romping home well in advance of second-placed State Man and Zanahiyr in third. Odds of 4/11 also made Constitution Hill the shortest priced winner in the history of the race.

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Speaking to the BBC after the win, an emotional trainer Nicky Henderson said: “That would bring tears to most eyes. He is pretty unique. There is a brilliant team behind it all. You get a horse like this in a lifetime and we are lucky. That is only the sixth race of his life but this horse is going to extraordinary levels and we are lucky to be the custodians of it. He is so unflappable.”

An emotional farewell for Honeysuckle

Away from Constitution Hill’s expected heroics, much of the pre-race talk had surrounded Honeysuckle’s attempts to round of a wonderful career by claiming a win in the Mares Chase.

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With Rachael Blackmore on board, the win wanted by so many came to pass as the nine-year-old came out on top in a battle with the gallant Love Envoi before taking a rapturous reception in the winner’s circle.

The win marked a high in an emotional year for Henry de Bromhead after he lost his 13-year-old son Jack in a racing accident in September last year. Blackmore paid tribute to the trainer after the race, telling ITV Sport: “We all wish a very special kid could be here today but he’s looking down on us. The way Henry has produced her today is phenomenal and I as a jockey am so greatful. She has been incredible for my career and everyone that has looked after her all these years. She’s a credit to everyone and it’s brilliant.”

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Favourite fails in the first

Michael O'Sullivan celebrates winning the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle with Marine Nationale, alongside owner and trainer Barry Connell (left) on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.Michael O'Sullivan celebrates winning the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle with Marine Nationale, alongside owner and trainer Barry Connell (left) on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
Michael O'Sullivan celebrates winning the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle with Marine Nationale, alongside owner and trainer Barry Connell (left) on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.

The first race of the festival saw Marine Nationale first past the post in a Supreme Novices Hurdle dominated by the Irish. Pre-race favourite Facile Vega looked well-placed to land a win many had expected but an error at the last hurdle was punished by Michael O’Sullivan as he guided Marine Nationale home.

O’Sullivan told ITV Racing: "Unbelievable. A massive relief. I am so, so lucky to get on this horse. We are having an amazing season. The horse is just incredible. He actually won easy."

The 23-year-old would enjoy further success on day one after he guided 18/1-shot Jazzy Matty to a win in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

El Fabiolo gets Mullins gets off the mark as Corach Rambler takes the Ultima.

Willie Mullins secured his first win of this year’s festival as Paul Townend rode El Fabiolo to victory in the Arkle.

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Paul Townend celebrates on board El Fabiolo after winning the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase during day one of the Cheltenham Festival 2023.Paul Townend celebrates on board El Fabiolo after winning the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase during day one of the Cheltenham Festival 2023.
Paul Townend celebrates on board El Fabiolo after winning the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase during day one of the Cheltenham Festival 2023.

It was Dysart Dynamo that set the pace for the vast majority of the race but what looked like a nasty fall at the last allowed El Fabiolo and the much-fancied Jonbon to take control in the final furlongs. Townend held his nerve and helped Mullins get off the mark. There was good news for Dysart Dynamo after he recovered from his fall and returned to the stable following the conclusion of an eye-catching race.

Favourite Corach Rambler become only the fourth dual-winner of the Ultima Handicap Chase as Derek Fox helped the nine-year-old beat the likes of Fastorslow, Monbeg Genius and The Goffer to claim the honours for a second consecutive year. And another favourite came home in the final race of a dramatic first day as Gaillard Du Mesnil took advantage of a fall from Mahler Mission and saw off Chemical Energy and Mister Coffey to claim the National Hunt Chase.

Day One results in full

1.30: SkyBet Supreme Novices Hurdle RESULT (14 ran)

1st: Marine Nationale (9/2) 2nd: Facile Vega (9/4f) 3rd: Diverge (25/1)

2.10pm: Arkle Chase RESULT (9 ran)

1st: El Fabiolo (11/1f) 2nd: Jonbon (2/1) 3rd: Saint Roi (11/1)

2.30pm: Ultimata Handicap Chase RESULT (23 ran)

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1st: Corach Rambler (6/1 jf) 2nd: Fastorslow (7/1) 3rd: Monbeg Genius (6/1jf) 4th: The Goffer (7/1)

3.30pm: Champion Hurdle RESULT (7 ran)

1st: Constitution Hill (4/11f) 2nd: State Man (7/2) 3rd: Zanahiyr (66/1)

4.10pm: Mares Hurdle RESULT (9 ran)

1st: Honeysuckle (9/4f) 2nd: Love Envoi (17/2) 3rd: Queen’s Brook (16/1)

4.50pm: Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle RESULT (21 ran)

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1st: Jazzy Matty (18/1) 2nd: Byker (6/1) 3rd: Risk Belle (10/1) 4th: Sundial (18/1)

5.30pm: National Hunt Chase RESULT (10 ran)

1st: Gaillard Du Mesnil (10/11f) 2nd: Chemical Energy (8/1) 3rd: Mister Coffey (11/1)

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