Henderson hints at Cheltenham Trials Day trip after Constitution Hill cruises to Christmas Hurdle success
Six-time champion trainer Nicky Henderson hinted that Constitution Hill’s next stop could be Cheltenham’s Trials Day after the unbeaten six-year-old lived up to his big reputation on his long-awaited seasonal reappearance.
The Seven Barrows superstar had been set to return at the Fighting Fifth, only for the weather to force the cancellation of the initial meeting at Newcastle before the soft ground put Henderson off at the rearranged Sandown fixture, leaving Constitution Hill’s Christmas Hurdle rivals hoping he might be a little underprepared when he lined up at Kempton.
However, they were soon to be sorely disappointed as Constitution Hill, who set off as 1/12 favourite, took two lengths out of leader Rubaud with a magnificent leap at the second to last and then cruised to victory by nine-and-a-half lengths under Nico de Boinville.
And legendary Lambourn handler Henderson, who has now seen his star win seven Grades 1s and successive Christmas Hurdles, suggested Constitution Hill could be in line for an additional run at the Unibet International on January 27 to make up for missing out on the Fighting Fifth.
“Everybody wants to see what he is and, as Nico says, you couldn’t fail to be impressed as he is such an exciting thing to sit on as he goes so fast,” Henderson told The Racing Post afterwards.
“I’ve not seen one jump better, that’s the secret to all these good two milers.
“We missed the Fighting Fifth so there is no reason why we shouldn’t look at the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Trials Day as an extra run. We want to race him.”
The 73-year-old reiterated his plan for Constitution Hill to defend his Champion Hurdle crown in March following a summer of speculation that he would send him over fences in a bid to emulate the great Dawn Run and add the Arkle to his hurdling titles.
See You Then won three successive Champion Hurdles for Henderson in the 1980s, a feat matched by Istabraq – the greatest modern hurdler of all on ratings and race record. With plans to send Constitution Hill chasing shelved and unlikely to be revisited, Henderson will be hoping the Blue Bresil gelding can equal or even surpass those legendary feats.
He said: “We had this discussion in the summer to jump fences, but what was there to be gained by doing it?
“He is very good at this. Is an Arkle or a Champion Chase going to change anybody’s life?
“We want to win the Champion Hurdle again – I’d be very surprised if we don’t try. You have to put it all into perspective and he can only beat what is put in front of him, and obviously there will be a lot more to come in March.”