A NEW kid on the block has emerged as the main danger to Constitution Hill at Cheltenham.
Nicky Henderson's wonder horse is as short as 2-7 for the Champion Hurdle and notched his fourth straight Grade 1 win at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Opposition towards him at the Festival in March was looking very thin on the ground, especially with Honeysuckle having lost her unbeaten record.
But Willie Mullins – who else – looks to have unearthed a legitimate challenger to Constitution Hill.
State Man, who won the County Hurdle at Cheltenham earlier this year, has now won five in a row, including three Grade 1s.
And on Thursday he was a comfortable winner of the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown.
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The bookies cut his odds across the board for the Champion Hurdle, with Paddy Power now making him the clear 4-1 second favourite (from 5s).
Mullins said: "He just keeps improving and I think there's even more improvement to come again after today. I think Paul was very happy where he was all the time through the race.
"We were discussing where he goes next and the Dublin Racing Festival looks like the plan now.
"Hopefully we don't get any setbacks and if he comes out of this well we'll look forward to that and then maybe going over to Cheltenham in March."
Winning jockey Paul Townend added: "We expected a better performance from when he won the Morgiana last time and he gave us that.
"He needed to build on Punchestown and I think he can even build on today as well. We were going a lot quicker than the Morgiana and his jumping was a lot slicker.
"I never had any worries about his jumping to be honest. I was trying to slow him down at Punchestown. He jumped well enough to win a County Hurdle and that's good enough for me."
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But punters still find it hard to see any horse beating Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle.
Reacting to State Man's win on social media, one said: "I still fancy Constitution Hill all day long."
Another added: "He was impressive but he needs to improve loads to worry the favourite."
While another reckons: "Not a chance in hell he beats Constitution Hill."
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