‘The best horse on the planet’ – no wonder the public flocked to the Lambourn Open Day
The learner having a driving lesson on Lambourn’s busiest day of the year on Friday might not have picked the right morning for some tuition, but Sandra Nolan, who has helped organise the village’s annual open day since it began in 1990, was spot on when swinging by my house on Thursday afternoon.
“It’s good, but it does get bigger every year,” she forecast.
Bigger yes, any better though? You bet.
With Constitution Hill, Sprinter Sacre and Altior in attendance on a sun-drenched day in RG17 it is easy to see why 52 cars were parked at Seven Barrows to see those stars at 7am – two hours before gates officially opened.
That yard is, of course, home to Nicky Henderson, whose cheery assistant George Daly started work at 4.50am, ensuring the iconic trainer’s string made it out on to the gallops before their devoted fan club turned up in their droves, which, unsurprisingly, they did.
A figure nearing £40,000, which will go to charitable causes, was collected on the entry point to Henderson’s historic outfit, which he confirmed was a personal best.
He, like Nolan, has been at the forefront of the Lambourn jamboree from its start and is not about to tire of showing off a horse such as Constitution Hill, who bolted up in last month’s Champion Hurdle and threatens to usurp the level reached by Sprinter Sacre, the best horse Henderson has trained.
“People love to see Sprinter Sacre and Altior back here, but Constitution Hill is the new kid on the block,” the 72-year-old’s second-in-command Charlie Morlock says.
He might not have the Hollywood heartthrob looks of Sprinter Sacre, but there are hushed tones when Constitution Hill parades around Henderson’s main yard with groom Jaydon Lee, and even the BHA cannot keep away with James Norris, who is in charge of handicapping staying hurdlers, in attendance.
Henderson’s wife Sophie reveals a couple had travelled from New Zealand to take in the event as part of their holiday and they saw a horse described as a “complete machine” by former stable stalwart Corky Browne.
“There’s too much to see,” exclaims Pete Rosney, who journeyed down from North Wales on Thursday. “Sprinter coming back to win his second Champion Chase was emotional, but this lad could be the best any of us have seen.”
Rosney, for context, is the wrong side of 60, but Harry Harris is not even one yet, so his vote for a Henderson favourite goes to his father Matthew, who says: “Altior got me into racing when he won the Supreme – I can’t wait to see him.”
Dan Saunders, Clive Cox’s head lad, helped break in Altior as a baby and offers Harry Three as a high-class sprinter to follow to one visitor at their yard until he sees the Racing Post is in earshot.
“Hopefully,” he stresses, but, while we’re in the business of horses for our trackers, Emily Shepherd, who works for Oliver Signy, offers Sea Village.
Future pointers from the space hopper race, which formed part of the afternoon entertainment, are probably not worth taking given James Hills, the eldest son of trainer Charlie, was subsequently disqualified by officials.
It is unclear if Hills’s grandfather Barry was at the helm of some ante-post plot, but what is clear is the draw of the village’s new emblem.
“People just love to feel part of it and Constitution Hill is the best horse on the planet,” says former jockey Kevin Mooney, who still rides out for Henderson.
Bigger and better than ever then – come for yourself next year if you don’t believe it.
Courtesy of Racing Post