Henderson on weather watch ahead of Constitution Hill return

Nicky Henderson will be monitoring the situation at Sandown ahead of the rearranged Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle in which Constitution Hill is set to make his seasonal reappearance.

The race was frozen off last weekend at its usual home of Newcastle but swiftly rescheduled for Saturday’s Tingle Creek card.

With Jonbon already odds-on for that Grade One, Henderson then added another of his stable stars to the Esher cast when confirming that Shishkin, not long ago the number one attraction at Seven Barrows, would have his prep for the King George in the Fighting Fifth after refusing to start at Ascot last month.

However, as ever the British weather is doing its bit to put a spanner in the works and while the meeting at Sandown is not in any apparent doubt, the going on the hurdles track is already soft, heavy in places with plenty more rain forecast over the next 48 hours.

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“It’s going to be horrible ground and it’s going to make everything very tricky,” said Henderson.

Constitution Hill won the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown as a novice
Constitution Hill won the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown as a novice (Steven Paston/PA)

“We’ll just have to wait and see how it all pans out tomorrow and we’ll be monitoring the situation closely.

“He’s declared so obviously we want to run him but it is close to the Christmas Hurdle, so it just might not be in his best interests.

“We all want to run, I just want to warn people that we will be assessing the conditions and I cannot guarantee that everything will take part on Saturday.

“The others are intended runners at this stage. Willmount is in the first race (Claremont Novices’ Hurdle) and he’s never run on heavy, so we need to find out if he handles this ground.

“As for Jonbon, we’ve always felt he was at his best on better ground, but he has won on soft and I’m pretty sure we’ve got stamina in our pocket.”

At present Nico de Boinville will be riding Constitution Hill leaving his understudy at Henderson’s yard, James Bowen, to come in for the ride on Shishkin.

James Bowen will be donning the Donnelly colours on Shishkin
James Bowen will be donning the Donnelly colours on Shishkin (Steve Welsh/PA)

The multiple Grade One winner was last seen planting himself at the start in the 1965 Chase at Ascot, and was denied a subsequent outing in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle on the Fighting Fifth card.

“I’m really excited to be riding Shishkin and it is an honour to ride him,” said Bowen.

“I didn’t know I was definitely on him until the declarations today as there was a chance I could have gone to Aintree, but it has ended up working out well for me.

“I’ve ridden a few nice horses, but he would be by far the best horse that I’ve ever ridden in a race. It is great they have rescheduled the race, and it is great to be part of it.

“I’m not saying he is going to go and win, but hopefully he can run a good race to get his season up and running after what happened at Ascot.

“This was not Plan A or Plan B. It is a case of it being Plan C, but it is a good stepping stone for him and his targets later on in the season.”

Jonbon is odds-on for the Tingle Creek in which he will face four rivals – Boothill, Edwardstone, Haddex Des Obeaux and Nube Negra.

Also on the Esher menu is the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, where the Joe Tizzard-trained JPR One bids to atone for an unfortunate mishap at Cheltenham last month.

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