Cheltenham's Festival Trials Day was a cracking afternoon of racing in the Cotswolds and it included a fine winning reappearance from Lossiemouth for Willie Mullins.
Last year's impressive Triumph Hurdle winner defied a 273-day absence and made light work of her first start in open graded company as she won the International Hurdle in facile fashion under Paul Townend.
So dominant was she, connections are now bound to be pondering if she is a viable Champion Hurdle contender this season.
Constitution Hill is the dominant force in the two-mile hurdles division and quantifiable opposition to the unbeaten superstar has, sadly, been thin on the ground.
With the outstanding recent record of mares in the two-mile Championship contest in the Cotswolds, will Mullins and owner Rich Ricci be tempted to have a pop at the Champion Hurdle?
He remains as the torch-bearer for National Hunt racing and, following his Christmas Hurdle cruise around Kempton, it is 8-8 for Constitution Hill and seven Grade 1s – five of them in open all-aged company.
He was 1/12 for that latest start and beat Rubaud by 9½-lengths. Little was learned there but it is noted that the same Paul Nicholls-trained inmate finished 10¾-lengths behind an easy-going Lossiemouth at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Nicky Henderson's superstar is set to go to Cheltenham this spring with just one run under his belt, after he missed the Fighting Fifth as his intended comeback.
This campaign has been anything but straightforward. The original Fighting Fifth at Newcastle was postponed and so Constitution Hill went to Sandown a week later for the rescheduled race, only to be ruled out on raceday owing to testing ground.
He won easily at Kempton on Boxing Day and was, for some time, an intended runner in the International Hurdle before his trainer reported an unsatisfactory scope in mid-January and duly ruled him out.
The Seven Barrows maestro has no current worries about the Champion Hurdle on 12th March and Constitution Hill is now 1/4 to retain his crown.
On the track, there remains no sign of weakness but, off it, Constitution Hill and his team have dealt with uncertainty throughout this season. Will that be enough to see Lossiemouth eyeing up his crown?
The mighty Dawn Run (1984) and Flakey Dove (1994) were the only mares in a 32-year span to win the Champion Hurdle before Annie Power's Cheltenham redemption in 2016.
Like Lossiemouth, she raced in the Ricci silks and was trained by Mullins. Her success heralded a new era for mares in the race, in which they get 7lb from the boys.
Epatante in 2020 and then Honeysuckle in 2021 and 2022 ensured that four of the last runnings have been won by the fairer sex.
Lossiemouth is still a young horse at five, but both Katchit (2008) and Espoir d'Allen (2019) have defied that particular age-trend, the only 5YO Champion Hurdle winners since See You Then won the first of his three-in-a-row in 1985.
Owner Rich Ricci is no stranger to Cheltenham success. His famous colours are, though, not quite as prevalent as they were in days gone by.
Gaelic Warrior – 11/8 to win the Turners Novices' Chase – and Lossiemouth are his main players heading into Cheltenham 2024.
The odds reflect the sort of compromise he and Mullins would likely be making if opting to take on Constitution Hill.
Mares have done well in the latter race, but the fact she's a lightly-raced five-year-old and will be liable to take on a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Constitution Hill might be more than enough to scare connections away.
Last year, Honeysuckle ducked a clash with Constitution Hill and was duly rewarded with glory in the Mares' Hurdle as she ended her career with a 4-4 record at the Cheltenham Festival.
When Annie Power went for her Champion Hurdle in 2016 she'd already tried – and failed – twice at the Festival in a Stayers' Hurdle (second to More Of That) and the infamous Mares' Hurdle where she came down at the last.
She was eight-years-old when Ruby Walsh captured the Champion on her back and, being honest, it was not a vintage era for two-mile hurdlers on reflection.
Given that Constitution Hill is deemed unlikely to be sent chasing now, it's extremely likely he'll be around in 2025 going for three-in-a-row.
Mullins has never hidden his theory that he will place his horses in the races he believes gives them the best chance of winning.
On that notion alone, it seems infinitely more likely Lossiemouth will tackles the Mares' Hurdle some 30 minutes or so after the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday 12th March.
A clash with Constitution Hill would seem much more likely in 2025 if, as they may well do, both horse remain on an upward trajectory until then.
For now, Team Mullins may be content to give 10/3 State Man another shot at Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle.
It was no contest last March but State Man has added three more Irish Grade 1s to his CV since (before the Irish Champion Hurdle on 4th February) and Townend, in particular, has been adamant he's riding an improved performer this season.
This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.