Horse Racing

LIZZIE KELLY: Constitution Hill tricked by a shadow at final hurdle

LIZZIE KELLY: Constitution Hill came perilously close to last-hurdle disaster in Champion Hurdle after the gelding was tricked by a shadow on his side of the obstacle and took off too early

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One of the big talking points here was still how exciting Constitution Hill had been when he blew away his opponents in the Champion Hurdle.

But there was also debate about just how close Nicky Henderson’s outstanding gelding had come to a last-hurdle disaster.

Sportsmail published a picture by our brilliant photographer Andy Hooper showing how Constitution Hill came perilously close to catching the top of the last hurdle after taking off far too soon.

The near-miss had echoes of two recent last-hurdle mishaps at the Festival — Annie Power’s fall in the 2015 Mares’ Hurdle and Benie Des Dieux’s last-gasp exit in the 2019 renewal of the same race.

There was speculation both of those incidents were caused by the low sun casting a shadow on the take-off side of the last obstacle, which confuses horses about when they should take off. That is a theory I agree with and our pictures, I would argue, support that conclusion.

Constitution Hill managed to clear the hurdle and keep Nico de Boinville in the saddle

In my opinion, Constitution Hill prepared himself to jump the shadow on Tuesday as opposed to the hurdle.

Only his incredible scope and a prodigious leap meant he managed to clear the hurdle and keep Nico de Boinville in the saddle.

The only difference between the three incidents is that Constitution Hill managed to stay on his feet while Annie Power and Benie Des Dieux fell.

If you look back at the footage, you can see Constitution Hill’s stride pattern change slightly approaching the shadow as he tries to spot his take-off.

Quite a lot of the time, when you hear jockeys have concerns about low sun and fences or hurdles are omitted, they are not only concerned about glare making it difficult to see, but the shadow being cast on the take-off side.

If the shadow was bigger, it would not be a problem because a horse is almost going to canter into it before it needs to take off.

This is the perfect example of a bad shadow — the last thing you want. And the problem is, it is impossible to do much about it.

The angle of the light and the position of a shadow can even change during the course of a race.

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