Henderson rules Constitution Hill out of Unibet International but insists ‘not entirely satisfactory’ scope will not impact Champion Hurdle defence
Nicky Henderson has ruled Constitution Hill out of the Unibet International Hurdle following an unsatisfactory scope.
The legendary Lambourn handler had hinted that the Seven Barrows star could use the rearranged Grade 2 contest as a prep run ahead of his Champion Hurdle defence, with the unbeaten seven-year-old having missed out on the Christmas Hurdle following unsatisfactory conditions.
Last week, the 73-year-old trainer suggested he would not risk Constitution Hill unless he was “convinced” the Unibet Hurdle – which usually takes place in December but was rescheduled to January 27, Cheltenham Trials Day – was a perfect fit.
And Henderson confirmed his decision to keep the all-conquering Blue Bresil gelding safely ensconced in West Berkshire after a routine scope “was not entirely satisfactory”.
However the six-time champion jumps trainer said the issue will not affect Constitution Hill’s Champion Hurdle defence in eight weeks time.
Constitution Hill remains the 1/3 favourite to claim a second successive Champion Hurdle title at The Cheltenham Festival in March, with expectations still high that he could emulate Henderson’s legendary See You Then and win the famous race three times in a row.
Constitution Hill, who did not run in the period between Christmas and the Champion Hurdle last season, is set to be re-scoped in two weeks time before Henderson and owner Michael Buckley begin their Festival preparations ahead of the showpiece race on March 12.
“We have reluctantly decided that Constitution Hill won’t be able to run in the Unibet Hurdle at Cheltenham at the end of next week,” Henderson said in a statement on X.
“A routine scope last week wasn’t entirely satisfactory and a follow up shows the issue hasn’t been resolved and therefore there would not be time to get him ready for next week.
“In the meantime he will continue with light exercise, be re-scoped in a fortnight’s time and then start his preparation for March.
“Both Michael (Buckley, owner) and I and all the team had very much hoped for a better result this morning so that we could run next Saturday but in the horse’s and indeed everybody’s interests, it would be foolish to do so.
“This does not affect any future plans.”