State Man out to upset Festival favourite in Champion Hurdle – Gloucestershire Live

This week, we meet the horse poised to take on the red-hot favourite Constitution Hill in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and learn how he almost didn’t make it to the racecourse at all.
It’s a pleasant and bright morning when dozens of journalists descend upon Closutton, the County Carlow home and yard of Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins. With 88 successes to his name, nobody in history has trained more winners at the Cheltenham Festival.
As is to be expected, Mullins has several contenders lined-up for this Cheltenham Festival and many of them – including the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite, Galopin Des Champs – could be seen out on the yard and gallops as they were given their morning’s work in front of the media. However, one stable star was nowhere to be seen.
For tucked away in his box getting some much-deserved rest was State Man, who less than 24 hours before had beaten fan favourite Honeysuckle in the Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival.
READ MORE: When is the Cheltenham Festival 2023 being held?
It’s now all systems go for the six-year-old gelding to go head-to-head against ‘freak’ Constitution Hill, trained by Nicky Henderson in Lambourn, in the Unibet Champion Hurdle on the opening day of The Festival (Tuesday, March 14). While that represents quite an assignment, State Man his already overcame arguably his biggest challenge in life.
Rachel Robins, who has been looking after State Man for three years said during The Jockey Club-organised media morning: “I had him for a whole season and he didn’t even run. Every day we’d be thinking ‘is he going to do anything?’
“Then he went out for the summer and that second season, he had his first run at Leopardstown and got a fall and a kick to the head.
“It was touch and go as to whether we would be able to run him again.”
A remarkable turnaround since has seen State Man go on to win his last six starts, including at last year’s Cheltenham Festival where he landed the McCoy Contractors County Hurdle. However next month’s battle against Constitution Hill could well be his greatest yet, something trainer Mullins is well aware of.
He said: “Constitution Hill could be a bit of a freak and maybe we're going to be unlucky to come against a horse like that, but it's all there to play for at the moment. Fingers crossed we all get there and we get to compete.
“From everything he's shown us all the time and the way he's improving, we think he's good enough.
“We're living the dream at the moment anyway. If you beat Honeysuckle around Leopardstown you'd normally be thinking there's only one more step to go, but Constitution Hill is there and a few more too.
“Constitution Hill looks the full package. He's got speed, he can jump, and he stays and he's going to be very tough to beat.”
At home State Man is just as much of a favourite, with Rachel describing him as a cool customer to look after and a ‘real good boy’. She added: “Everyone loves him and when they walk through will give him a carrot as he is just a good guy.”
Stateman and Constitution Hill go to battle at 3.30pm on Tuesday, March 14 in the Unibet Champion Hurdle in what is sure to be a highlight of the week.


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