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The Main talking point of the Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy is there will be no returning Champion in the form of Constitution Hill who is not fit enough to have a crack at retaining his crown.

With the main man not coming to Cheltenham, the shine of this race has been taken away. There is no doubt in my mind that Constitution Hill would've won as easily as he did last year if he turned up at 100% and it would've been a watching brief more than a betting angle, but it's always a shame when the stars of our sport don't get to show their ability on the bigger of stages.

Even with Constitution Hill not turning up, this race is still a no-bet race with State Man likely to take all the beating.

Cheltenham 3:30 – No Bet

Although it is sad to see Nicky Henderson's stable star not turning up, it has presented an open goal for State Man to land his first Champion Hurdle. You cannot take away the talent that Willie Mullins' 7yo has, if the great Constitution Hill wasn't around then State Man would've been spoken about in the list of great 2m hurdlers, but he has had to play second fiddle to CH, so in that respect it is nice to see him hopefully get his big day in the sun.

It is a shame that Lossiemouth isn't lining up to take on her stablemate, but you can fully understand why Willie wants to keep her in the Mares' hurdle race which comes later on in the day. I personally think she would've been the biggest threat to State Man, but the stable will want to keep them separated as it gives them the best chance of winning both races rather than the one, which might sound daft as Willie has plenty of top class mares in that race too.

In terms of today's opposition, it would be a very big shock if State Man wasn't to get his head in front. Nothing pops out on the page to be on the same level as him, and he arguably put up a career-best performance at Leopardstown last time out, so is clearly still improving. Irish Point has taken a redirection for the Champion Hurdle as a result of Constitution Hill missing out, and I don't think that this is the right call, but you can see why Robcour has opted for this as they have Teahupoo for the Stayer's. Irish Point is a very good horse in his own right, he is a Grade 1 winner over 2m 4f and 2m 7f, and was a runner-up in a Grade 1 over 2m behind Marine Nationale in December 2022, so he is a capable horse at the trip, but I do worry he lacks the gears to be competitive against an elite 2m horse who has only found the greatest 2m hurdler in many years too strong for him.

Not So Sleepy could be a play if you're getting extra places and playing without the favourite market. He is a grand horse and at the age of 12 he just keeps rolling the clock back. He won a Fighting Fifth a couple of years ago, deadheating with ex-champion hurdle winner, Epatante and he won a Grade 1 this year. The form of the Grade 1 win at Sandown isn't anywhere near the level of State Man, but on a testing surface, he could easily be filling the places.

In Constitution Hill's absence, Nicky Henderson has entered Iberico Lord and Luccia. Both of those horses are talented horses in their own right, but as their handicap ratings would suggest, they are well out of their depth.

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