Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Nicky Henderson insists he is not looking beyond the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day for Constitution Hill.

Last season’s Champion Hurdle winner is set to return to action in the two-mile Grade One contest, which he claimed 12 months ago by 17 lengths from now-retired stablemate Epatante.

After the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle fell victim to the weather, Constitution Hill was then declared a non-runner due to the ground in the rescheduled renewal at Sandown, which was won by the Hughie Morrison-trained Not So Sleepy.

Henderson reports the Michael Buckley-owned six-year-old to have pleased him on the gallops since then, but he admits he is taking nothing for granted despite the Blue Bresil gelding having plenty in hand over his potential five rivals at Kempton on official ratings. 

The Seven Barrows handler said: “You couldn’t run at Sandown and Kempton. It was physically not possible. You knew straight away you were going to have to sacrifice one race for the other. We decided we would stick to the original plan. 

“I wasn’t going to put him in at Sandown until the very last minute. I had already said to Michael ‘I don’t think this will work’, but he said ‘let’s see’.

Nico de Boinville celebrates winning the Champion Hurdle on Constitution Hill

“Of course, it is frustrating when you drag him all the way to Newcastle and back again. That was bad luck. That was the original plan and that is where he would have been, and we would have been on the same leg as last year. Unfortunately, we are not. 

“He was ready for Newcastle, and he is ready for Kempton. He is big, well and strong. He came in looking very well. At one stage I was a bit behind as he was so big. He took a bit longer to get the shape back into him, but that is long gone.

“He has had to do a bit more work as it is all very easy to him. His schooling is unbelievable. 

“We have got to get out there and he has got to go through the motions. He has got to be as good as he ever was at Kempton, then we can look forward.”

De Boinville and owner Michael Buckley with Constitution Hill

Although Henderson’s focus is on Kempton, where his five possible rivals are Black Poppy, First Street, Nemean Lion, Rubaud and Sceau Royal, he is giving thought to a potential plan for the rest of the season.

He added: “Constitution Hill could go to Kempton, Cheltenham, for the Unibet International Hurdle which they have stuck in on Festival Trials Day, then Cheltenham and Aintree.

“I would be tempted with Ireland [at the Punchestown Festival] but you have to be careful of the ground at that time of the year.

“He won’t go to Ireland [for the Dublin Racing Festival], definitely not, but I won’t look forward until Kempton is over.”

Meanwhile, the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase is due to feature the UK debut of Il Est Francais, trained by Noel George and Amanda Zetterholm in France.

However, he will face far from an easy task, with Paul Nicholls’ Hermes Allen, Gordon Elliott’s Imagine, the Willie Mullins pair of Grangeclare West and Klassical Dream and Lucinda Russell’s Giovinco all potential rivals among nine entries.

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The post Constitution Hill: Nicky Henderson’s focus on Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle for star hurdler appeared first on WorldNewsEra.


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