Tag Archive for: Constitution Hill

Constitution Hill given record rating for a novice hurdler

Constitution Hill has been awarded a mark of 170 in the Anglo-Irish Jumps Classifications – a record high for a novice hurdler since the introduction of the ratings.

The Nicky Henderson-trained gelding earned his figure with his performance in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, where the brilliant mare Honeysuckle won the Champion Hurdle for the second time.

Henry de Bromhead’s superstar was allotted a mark of 165 – which taking into account her 7lb mare’s allowance gives her a slight edge ahead of what would be a hugely-anticipated showdown next season.

Honeysuckle was unstoppable at Cheltenham
Honeysuckle was unstoppable at Cheltenham (Nigel French/PA)

De Bromhead’s Gold Cup hero A Plus Tard tops the overall ratings on 180, which sees him 3lb clear of the Willie Mullins-trained Allaho, who also runs in the colours of Cheveley Park Stud. Mullins’ Energumene and Henderson’s Shishkin follow on 176.

Andrew Mealor, British Horseracing Authority hurdles team leader, said: “The standout performance over hurdles in the latest season was undoubtedly Constitution Hill’s top-class effort in the Supreme at Cheltenham.

“Nicky Henderson’s charge has been awarded a rating of 170 for his 22-length defeat of subsequent Grade One winner Jonbon in a fast time, which makes him the first hurdler to rate 170+ in the end-of-season classifications since Champion Hurdle winner Espoir d’Allen in 2018/19.

“Furthermore, 170 is the highest rating for a novice over hurdles since the Anglo-Irish Jump Classifications were founded in 1999/2000, eclipsing the 168 rating awarded to Iris’s Gift after he finished second to Baracouda as a novice in the 2003 Stayers’ Hurdle.

Rachel Blackmore celebrates with A Plus Tard
Rachel Blackmore celebrates with A Plus Tard (David Davies/PA)

“Constitution Hill looks to have the world at his feet as he heads into open company next season, though star mare Honeysuckle should not be forgotten of course, having yet again done all that was asked of her in another unbeaten campaign, including a second success in the Champion Hurdle.

“As things stand, Honeysuckle’s figure of 165 plus her 7lbs mares’ allowance gives her the edge on ratings over Constitution Hill, though that does not factor in the latter’s scope for further improvement after just three starts. A clash between the two should be one to savour next March.”

No Punchestown for Constitution Hill

Nicky Henderson has confirmed Constitution Hill will not take on Honeysuckle at Punchestown next week and will instead head off on his summer break.

Constitution Hill produced a scintillating display when winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by 22 lengths at the Cheltenham Festival last month.

Two hours later, superstar mare Honeysuckle successfully defended her crown in the Champion Hurdle for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore.

A potential clash between the pair in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle was subsequently mooted, with the race sponsors dangling the carrot of a £100,000 bonus should any British horse emerge triumphant.

However, after discussing it with owner Michael Buckley over the weekend, Henderson has “declined all temptations”, instead opting to save his star youngster for next season.

“We’ve been umming and aahing for a good fortnight now. It was very tempting,” the Seven Barrows handler said on Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast.

“But he is a big, quite raw five-year-old who has only had three races in his life and his future is so big – and believe it or not, I think he can be a better horse and stronger horse in a year’s time.

“I’d just rather finish on a good note with everything in front of him. There’s all the time in the world to meet Honeysuckle and hopefully it will be in March (at Cheltenham).”

Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville with Constitution Hill
Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville with Constitution Hill (Mike Egerton/PA)

He added: “He will definitely stay over hurdles and he can have a proper campaign next season.

“To go over there (Ireland) and do this against what is undoubtedly a very good mare, it’s not so much that we’re frightened of her, it’s just doing something that wasn’t really in Constitution Hill’s interest and to his benefit.

“I think the field and a nice summer out is of more benefit and we’ll just try to build up this frame a little bit more.

“We’ve declined all the temptations.”

Bonus offered in hope of securing Constitution Hill and Honeysuckle clash

Connections of Constitution Hill have been given an added incentive to take on Honeysuckle at the Punchestown Festival.

Henry de Bromhead’s supermare has won 15 times from 15 starts, retaining her Champion Hurdle title at the Cheltenham Festival under Rachael Blackmore.

Earlier on the same Tuesday card at the Festival it was Constitution Hill in the spotlight, as the Nicky Henderson-trained gelding lit up Prestbury Park with a staggering 22-length triumph in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

The two horses could yet cross paths in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle, a race Honeysuckle won by two and a quarter lengths last season and given a boost with the sponsors offering a bonus of £100,000 should a British-trained horse take the trophy back across the Irish Sea.

Rachael Blackmore celebrating after Champion Hurdle success aboard Honeysuckle
Rachael Blackmore celebrating after Champion Hurdle success aboard Honeysuckle (David Davies/PA)

Conor O’Neill, Punchestown’s CEO said: “When Paddy Power came on board as Punchestown Champion Hurdle sponsors they committed to clear objectives.

“The race should be as competitive as possible, increase field sizes, attract the very best horses from both sides of the Irish Sea and then tell people about it to create anticipation and excitement for the overall promotion of the sport.

“Now in the second year of the sponsorship they have certainly backed this up with a €300,000 prize fund and bonus incentive. The first Paddy Power Champion Hurdle was behind closed doors so we really look forward to working with the team as we welcome crowds back to famous festival Friday at Punchestown.”

Constitution Hill winning the Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Constitution Hill winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Mike Egerton/PA)

While the bonus is intended to lure British horse across to the meeting, the 10-strong field of current entries has no shortage of Irish-trained runners and Gordon Elliott could be responsible for two of them.

Both Teahupoo and Zanahiyr are in the mix, with the former disappointing when last in the Champion Hurdle and the latter going well when falling in the Betway Aintree Hurdle.

Elsewhere at the meeting Elliott has made entries for Aintree winner Three Stripe Life, who took the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle and could head next to the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle.

Minella Crooner, who missed the Cheltenham Festival with a minor setback, is entered for the same race and is also engaged in the three-mile Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle.

Three Stripe Life winning the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle
Three Stripe Life winning the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Mike Egerton/PA)

“We’ve made entries for all the Grade One races at Punchestown and we will be well represented throughout the week,” said Elliott.

“It’s our season-ending Festival in Ireland and a fantastic five days. We’ve had a bit of luck there in the past and hopefully we can finish the season off with a high.

“It’s where my owners want to have runners and it’s where I want to have runners.

“We had two winners at Cheltenham and two Grade One winners at Aintree and the horses have been running well. We haven’t always had the best of luck in the last few weeks, but a lot of the horses that weren’t winning were hitting the crossbar and finishing second so it was brilliant to have the couple of big winners at Aintree and see Delta Work and Escaria Ten run so well in the National itself.

Gordon Elliott has plenty to look forward to at Punchestown
Gordon Elliott has plenty to look forward to at Punchestown (Mike Egerton/PA0

“We’ve had some great days at Punchestown. It’s a brilliant place and they’ve a great team there on the track and behind the scenes and they provide beautiful ground which is so important at this time of year.

“Three Stripe Life was brilliant at Aintree and will go over fences next season so he might take in Punchestown but again, he’ll tell us over the next few days. He’s a horse to really look forward to next season.

“Minella Crooner has options of the Alanna Homes and the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdles.

“It was disappointing that he picked up a setback just before Cheltenham but it was very minor.

“We were just forced to miss a few days with him at the wrong time, but he’ll go to Punchestown fresh now and I’ve been happy with him in the last couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to getting him back out.”

Fil Dor (left) at Down Royal
Fil Dor (left) at Down Royal (Niall Carson/PA)

Mighty Potter was pulled up in the Supreme at Cheltenham and aims to bounce back in the Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle, with Fil Dor entered in the Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle for the same owners after his second-placed run behind Vauban in the Triumph Hurdle.

“Mighty Potter didn’t run his race at Cheltenham but has come home well and he’ll definitely go to Punchestown and I’d love to have a big winner there for his owners, Andrew and Gemma Brown,” said Elliott.

“We also have Fil Dor for them as well and he’ll go for the Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle on the Saturday.

“He has to try turn the tables with Vauban, who beat him at Cheltenham and the Dublin Racing Festival, but we’ll give it a go. Punchestown is a different type of test and if he can run his race we’d be delighted.”

Constitution Hill plans likely to be firmed up next week

Nicky Henderson and Constitution Hill’s owner Michael Buckley are likely to sit down next week and decide which race the superstar novice will run in at the Punchestown Festival.

The five-year-old had clock-watcher’s purring when winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in a time much quicker than that which saw Honeysuckle land a second Champion Hurdle two hours later.

That led Buckley into thinking he would love to have a crack at the unbeaten Honeysuckle in her own backyard. But Henderson is less sold on the idea given his youngster has only had three races under rules in his career.

“We’re entering for both the novice and the Champion and Michael Buckley and I will sit down next week to decide which way we go,” Henderson told Sky Sports Racing.

“I think everybody knows who wants to go where. I’m more conservative than Michael, put it like that.

“I’m all for keeping novices in novice company. He’s only five.

“That is not to say it’s an impossibility. I know Michael is dying to have a crack at Honeysuckle, I just feel there is plenty of time for that to happen.

“It’s not necessarily totally against my wishes. It is something we will discuss and we’ll probably come up with the wrong answer!”

Henderson eager to dampen down Constitution Hill hype

Nicky Henderson is keen not to get involved in the hype surrounding Constitution Hill and insists no decision has yet been made on his next outing.

While Henderson has admitted it will be Punchestown or nowhere for the ultra-impressive Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, he has far from committed to taking on unbeaten Champion Hurdle heroine Honeysuckle.

Constitution Hill was awarded an official BHA handicap mark of 170 – the highest ever given to a novice hurdler since Anglo-Irish Classifications began in 1999/2000 – that puts him just 2lb behind the 165-rated Honeysuckle when her 7lb mares’ allowance is taken into consideration.

Henderson, though, is keen to stress the five-year-old has only had three races in his life, while also declaring himself as one of Honeysuckle’s biggest fans.

“I’m keeping right out of all the talk. I’m reading the headlines with interest every day about what he is and where he’s going and I’ve no idea,” said Henderson.

“We must remember he’s only had three runs, so I’m not getting involved in any discussions.

“What I will say is that I think Honeysuckle is absolutely spectacular, she’s won all those races and I think she’s absolutely gorgeous – I’m her biggest fan.

“We’ve got lots of time to think and lots of thinking to do.”

Constitution Hill led home his stablemate Jonbon, albeit some way in arrears, and Henderson is hoping to head to Aintree with the full-brother to Douvan.

“I think Jonbon will almost certainly go to Aintree, but Constitution Hill won’t go there. If he goes anywhere it will be Punchestown, but that doesn’t mean he will take on Honeysuckle,” said Henderson.

“I really have no idea what we’ll do. Obviously it’s flattering when you see his rating.

“Time will tell, luckily Constitution Hill can’t read the headlines.”

Monday Musings: Reflecting from the Sofa

Two years ago I happily trudged through four days of Cheltenham, impervious to the threat of Covid-19 which had yet fully to take a grip on this country, writes Tony Stafford. Allowing the meeting to go ahead was one of the biggest sticks the authorities had to deal with at that time as, by the weekend, lockdown was announced.

Last year’s eerie atmosphere when only the most closely connected – and the best of the well-tried chancers – were admitted went on without me and again last week I watched, by choice this time, the events unwinding from the sofa.

With an otherwise empty house it was no surprise that Champion Hurdle Day 2022 quickly morphed in my mind to 13 years earlier when Punjabi’s 33-1 win in the race was accomplished with barely a cheer from the chair:  just a smile of satisfaction.

When Honeysuckle made it two out of two in the race, and 15 out of 15 in all, the smile was just as wide and, like everyone else, my mind was scanning forward to next year as we’d already savoured the extraordinary performance of Nicky Henderson’s Constitution Hill in the Supreme.

Over the years Henderson’s best animals have all enjoyed better ground and the first day after a dry spell provided a surface that enabled a spectacular course record in that Festival opener. Not only that, Constitution Hill was much faster than Honeysuckle’s Champion Hurdle – a race where we hadn’t believed the gallop to have been in any way pedestrian.

Second home behind Honeysuckle and Dame Rachael Blackmore – if you could have Sir Terry Wogan, then why not? – was Henderson’s 2020 winner, Epatante. Afterwards, Nicky ceded greatness to the winner and great merit to his mare. It’s possibly easy to be charitable after witnessing a performance from one of your own horses that promises to keep you near the top for another few seasons, but it was nice anyway.

Coming to race seven on the opening day, the score was UK four, Ireland two and W P Mullins zero. And at that stage there were only 22 races still to be contested. Willie and son Patrick supplied a fuss-free winner of the astonishingly denuded six-horse field for the National Hunt Chase, but who could have thought he would win ten of those remaining races?

There is no question that he is the greatest trainer of jumping horses since his late compatriot Vincent O’Brien. The first master of Ballydoyle used to win Gold Cups, Champion Hurdles and Grand Nationals in the early post-War years in much the way Gary Moore knocks off little races around Plumpton and Fontwell.

The first inkling of what was to come was in the opener on Wednesday when Sir Gerhard strolled home in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Last year’s Festival Bumper hero carried what was to be the first of three Cheveley Park Stud victories during the week and he was possibly the least spectacular of the trio.

Energumene was the next major Mullins winner, but sadly the anticipated re-match with Shishkin failed to materialise, Henderson’s hitherto unbeatable young chaser never going a yard and pulling up.

As I hinted earlier, the Seven Barrows maestro’s horses are usually better on faster ground – not that Constitution Hill minds mud, he was just as impressive up Sandown’s hill in desperate going on his previous Grade 1 start; but I can imagine the trainer’s thoughts on that evening when the new clerk of the course John Pullin decided to water, even though rain was expected in many forecasts.

It was almost as though Willie Mullins had sent the boys round to demand a level playing-field. UK four, Ireland three. That’s unfair!

“I didn’t think we would be getting the rain we did,” paraphrases the beleaguered new boy’s response to turning the previously pristine acres to a midwinter Thurles peat bog. The die was cast and the tide turned irrevocably.

The nice runs continued, especially for Venetia Williams whose strength every season comes in muddy midwinter. Even if it may more usually be in January at Hereford or Haydock, the hurricanes can happen at Cheltenham too as L’Homme Presse showed with a fine performance in the three-mile Brown Advisory – the Sun Alliance for old-timers like me.

The next day Venetia sent out two long-priced handicappers in the Kim Muir. This race, happily restored as an amateur riders’ event post Covid, went to her Chambard, a 40-1 shot. She also supplied the 66/1 third, the 3,000-1 plus forecast only denied by joint-favourite Mister Coffey, yet another Henderson horse to impress.

The Irish did not exactly replicate their total monopoly of the handicaps as had been the case in 2021 but the old chestnut of allowing the always questionable form in France for qualification in handicaps reared its ugly head once more.

I mentioned last week that contrary to an alleged inside source, I doubted Colonel Mustard would be running against Sir Gerhard again, trainer Lorna Fowler being much too shrewd to waste her breath tilting at that particular windmill.

The County Hurdle had to be the answer. By the morning of the race Colonel Mustard was down to second favouritism, but the snag was that Mullins had State Man, a horse with only three runs on his card in the field.

A win in France as long ago as May 2020; a fall switched to Ireland when 8-13 for a maiden on Leopardstown’s St Stephen’s Day card and then a facile maiden romp at Limerick brought a 141 initial mark. Incidentally that put him 1lb higher than the well-tested and openly raced Colonel Mustard.

Lorna’s horse actually hit the front between the last two flights but you could see State Man galloping all over the field. While at the line it was less than a two-length margin over First Street, another fine run by a Henderson horse, with Colonel Mustard (in the conservatory with the lead pipe), battling on for third.

Mullins had already come out on top in the opening Triumph Hurdle. His Vauban always had the edge over the Gordon Elliott pair Fil Dor and Pied Piper with the rest, and therefore the home team, nowhere. It seems even before Vauban carried the resurgent and always on the box Mrs Ricci colours, the Melbourne Cup was being mooted. You wouldn’t put that past him either.

Five wins on the final day for Mullins did not prevent the 2021 star turn Henry de Bromhead striking back in the most emphatic way. Last year in the Gold Cup Minella Indo gained a big enough advantage over stablemate A Plus Tard to hold off Rachael Blackmore’s mount up the final hill.

This time, as the Betfair Chase at Haydock virtuoso performance prepared us for, it was Pas Trop Loin rather than later that French-mangling turfistes might have greeted the Cheveley Park-owned chaser.

Richard Thompson, once a prodigal son who was perceived as having wasted some of the family fortune as briefly chairman of Queen’s Park Rangers but now restored in the bosom of the Cheveley Park management, was centre stage all week. But on Friday mum Patricia was on hand for the starring role.

She is the nearest to my mind in non-Regal terms to the Queen Mother in her status in horse racing. This has been achieved, not only through these great horses – to which we can add Ryanair winner Allaho – but also the wonderful flat-race breeding and racing operation in Newmarket. Lest we forget, she owned Party Politics when he won the 1992 Grand National.

Now, by winning a Gold Cup and a Grand National, she emulates L’Escargot’s owner, Raymond Guest. He did win a Derby, too, with Sir Ivor. I think Messrs Haggas, Stoute and the rest better line up one for that classic before too long.

- TS

 

Mouthwatering clash between Cheltenham stars at Punchestown still in the mix

Connections of Constitution Hill are likely to consider next month’s Punchestown Festival for the ultra-impressive Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner.

Owner Michael Buckley has yet to speak to trainer Nicky Henderson – but revealed his brilliant prospect will “probably” be given entries in both the Champion Novice Hurdle and the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle.

Buckley is not entirely sold on the idea on going for the latter race, and was glad he did not have the temptation of taking on Honeysuckle at Cheltenham, even though the performance of his five-year-old was a serious one both visually and on the clock, breaking the track record.

“I haven’t spoken to Nicky yet, but I think we’ll just see how the horse is, probably enter him at Punchestown probably for both races and then see how he is. But it would be a terrible shame to do something really dumb,” he told Sky Sports Racing.

Michael Buckley, owner of Constitution Hill
Michael Buckley, owner of Constitution Hill (Mike Egerton/PA)

“It’s all very well saying it works out at 30 lengths difference or 20 lengths difference on the times, but races are different. They are run differently. You can’t take one that is in one way and another one in another way.

“We had a horse which was very quick out of the blocks and led the field at a huge pace. The Champion Hurdle was a different type of race.

“We’d have been mad to do it (run in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham), with a horse that had had two runs and been to a racecourse twice. It’s not like a Flat horse that’s had a Flat campaign and now gone hurdling. He’s so inexperienced. I kind of said to Nicky that one thing about not entering is we don’t have the temptation.”

Honeysuckle’s trainer Henry de Bromhead believes it would be great for racing if the pair did clash at Punchestown.

“It would be brilliant. It’s what racing is about. I think it would be fantastic. If Michael is brave enough to take us on, fair play to him,” he told Racing TV.

“What she has achieved, no other horse has achieved it.

“I wouldn’t dare to say she is going to beat Constitution Hill. I can’t answer that. What she’s achieved is way beyond a lot of horses.

“Obviously, Constitution Hill was extremely impressive, all his figures were unreal, but she’s just so consistently at the top. I can’t answer who would win it, but I think it would be fascinating if they do takes us on and wouldn’t it be amazing for the sport.”

Constitution Hill simply supreme for Henderson

Constitution Hill led home a one-two for Nicky Henderson with an extraordinary performance in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Sent off the 9-4 joint-favourite for the Festival opener, Nico de Boinville’s mount simply glided up the famous hill to account for stablemate Jonbon, with Willie Mullins’ Kilcruit well-beaten third.

The turning point of the Grade One was at the third-last flight, when the pace-setting Mullins-trained Dysart Dynamo crashed out, leaving the Henderson pair alone up front.

There was little between the duo going to two out – but Constitution Hill (9-4 joint-favourite) was going the better and soon took the lead.

The five-year-old, owned by Michael Buckley, quickly put daylight between himself and Jonbon to score by 22 lengths.

No other horse got into the race, with Kilcruit staying on to take minor honours another two and a half lengths away, as Henderson won the Supreme for a fifth time.

De Boinville said: “I knew it was going to be fast and furious and in fairness he did it like a piece of work. I was so happy going to the last. He could be anything, I’m sure he’d jump a fence as well. He’s got so much scope.

“I didn’t really have a choice (to go for home when he did), he was travelling so well. They’ve gone a really hard gallop and he’s just picked the bridle up. I’m delighted for his owner Michael Buckley, he’ll be ecstatic.

“What a way to start the week, what a legend.”

A packed grandstand looks on Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
A packed grandstand looks on Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Nigel French/PA)

Henderson said: “That was awesome. I know what the second horse is and I would have been very surprised if anything could have done that to Jonbon, so he must be an extraordinary animal.

“The hype horse earlier on in the year was Jonbon, then this fella woke up from his slumbers at home and we suddenly realised that actually he was very good.

“He’s been very good but the big question was how much he actually knew, he’s run in two hurdle races with four runners in each. To suddenly go out there and go at that gallop, that’s the extraordinary thing.

“He can travel so easily at that pace and then pick it up, to find gears at the end of a headlong gallop like that was extraordinary.”

He went on: “I just feel sorry for Jonbon! The three of them, with Dysart Dynamo too, had pulled a long way clear when he fell and no one wants to see that.

“This is obviously a very good horse because we know Jonbon is a very good horse so for him (Constitution Hill) to do that to him is remarkable.

“He is extraordinary. Actually today was the first time he woke up in the stables before the race. They felt the atmosphere pre-race.

“I can’t believe he’s a genuine two-miler. He’d stay two and a half standing on his head, but he does have an enormous turn of foot.

“He’s always just racing two gears below everyone else because it’s all so easy and then you press a button and it works.

“In some ways he’s the perfect horse, but in others he’s hard to work as everything is so easy for him. In the last few weeks I’ve had to get horses to go with him, not Jonbon. It’s hard when a horse is that good, but good fun.

“That feels like a relief. That race was everything and now we can look forward to Shishkin.”

On plans for his winner, he added: “Someone tried to tell me to run him in the Champion Hurdle this year and I’ll get it in the neck for not doing it after a performance like that! We’ll see what the future holds.

“I think Aintree comes quick, but he could go to Punchestown.”

Gold Cup-winning jockey Barry Geraghty bought Constitution Hill as a store horse before selling him to Henderson, and admitted the feeling was completely different to anything he had experienced at Cheltenham before.

“You dream as a spectator to be involved, and then you dream of a performance like that, but at the same time you are afraid to dream,” he said.

“This is the moment that flashes into your mind, but you try not to let it because you don’t want to be disappointed.

“This horse has everything, he’s gorgeous in every sense, he just has so much class.

“He had all the right horses behind him, Jonbon ran his race, Kilcruit was there – we thought this lad could be exceptional and it looks like he is.”

Constitution Hill (centre), Dysart Dynamo (left) and Jonbon (right) at the start
Constitution Hill (centre), Dysart Dynamo (left) and Jonbon (right) at the start (David Davies/PA)

Patrick Mullins, rider of Kilcruit, said: “We’ve gone a ferocious gallop and my lad was never able to lay up, which I thought he would.

“His jumping was a little bit scrappy. The ground is good and he probably wants a step up in trip.

“It was an exceptional winner. To go that strong a gallop and quicken off it, he’s an exceptional horse.”

Mullins senior said: “The winner was very impressive.

“I think Kilcruit and Bring On The Night both need an extra half-mile, on that sort of ground anyhow.

“Dysart Dynamo fell too far out (to know what would have happened), but it looked a tired fall, so maybe he had done enough at that stage.”

There was, however, a sad postscript to the race as it emerged Shallwehaveonemore suffered what proved to be a fatal injury after falling at the final flight.

Henderson looking to Supreme duo for perfect Festival start

Nicky Henderson has high hopes either Constitution Hill or Jonbon can give Britain a flying start to the Festival by winning the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The Seven Barrows handler has always wanted to pitch them against each other to give the home team the best possible chance of foiling the Irish in the curtain raiser.

Both horses take unbeaten records over hurdles to the meeting, but in character they are polar opposites.

“It was always the plan to run them both but they are like cheese and chalk,” said Henderson.

“Jonbon will always be a bit flighty, it’s probably a help he’s in the first race and we’ll have ways and means of hopefully keeping the lid on him because he’ll be the one on his toes. We’ll protect him from the atmosphere.

“Nothing will worry Constitution Hill, he’s just so laid back. They will be two very good rides in the race. While Jonbon can be a bit keen in the race, there’s no danger of that for Constitution Hill!

“Jonbon had a proper race at Haydock, but he quickened up twice in horrible ground which I was pleased with. By running Constitution Hill again, I was never going to find a competitive race. There wasn’t anywhere else to go where you were going to get more than four or five runners (like in the Tolworth).”

Henderson compares both to his last two winners of the race, who went on to greater things.

Jonbon in action at Newbury
Jonbon in action at Newbury (Adam Davy/PA)

“I think they are both very strong. Like Altior and Shishkin, you would like to think they are in their sort of league,” he went on.

“It is always the best race to win on the whole card to be honest with you. We want to see England 1 Ireland 0. It is nice to have two, as two is better than one.

“They have done everything right and I hope all goes well. There is no doubt Willie’s (Mullins) are good, but our job is to mind our own horses.”

Mullins, who has won the Supreme on a record seven occasions, has his own powerful hand, with Dysart Dynamo, Kilcruit and Bring On The Night all in contention.

Dysart Dynamo disputes favouritism with Constitution Hill following his runaway victory in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle, while last season’s Champion Bumper runner-up Kilcruit made it third time lucky over hurdles on his latest outing and appears to be coming into form at the right time.

“Dysart Dynamo was very free the last day in front, but I think Paul (Townend, jockey) has said to me on more than one occasion that when he settles behind a horse he’s fine,” said Mullins.

“Kilcruit jumps well enough, so everything would seem right for him. He handles the track well and you’d think the horse who finished second in the Bumper could go for the two-and-a-half-mile race really, but I’m not sure that would suit him.”

The Gordon Elliott-trained Mighty Potter is another leading hope for the Irish, having been kept fresh for Cheltenham since winning in Grade One company at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Mighty Potter on his way to victory at Leopardstown
Mighty Potter on his way to victory at Leopardstown (Niall Carson/PA)

Joey Logan, racing manager to owners Caldwell Construction Ltd, said: “I think he’s the forgotten horse of the race, to be honest. His work in the last four to six weeks has been very smart.

“He’s a big horse and a chaser in the making, but he’s got stronger since Christmas and I think he’s going to run a very big race.

“It’s a very competitive race, obviously. You’ve got Nicky’s horses and Willie’s. But take nothing away from Mighty Potter, who has won a Grade One and is unlucky not to have won two Grade Ones (close third in Royal Bond at Fairyhouse).

“Gordon did a fantastic job keeping at home instead of running at the Dublin Racing Festival as it’s freshened him up.

“If he gets into a nice rhythm with his jumping and comes around the bend in second or third, I think he has a serious chance coming up the hill.”

Paul Nicholls runs Silent Revolution
Paul Nicholls runs Silent Revolution (David Davies/PA)

Paul Nicholls’ Silent Revolution has not been seen since early November due to a setback and is among the outsiders.

“He is a useful prospect who won well on his debut over hurdles at Newbury in November before having a little problem with a splint which prevented us giving him another run before Cheltenham,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“But he has done plenty at home and enjoyed an away day at Wincanton where he worked nicely. Obviously we are pitching Silent Revolution into a hot race but we are game to give it a go.”

Constitution Hill bids to give Britain a Supreme start

Constitution Hill is set for a fascinating clash with stablemate Jonbon and Irish challenger Dysart Dynamo in Tuesday’s Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the opening contest of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival.

Trained by Nicky Henderson, Constitution Hill has won each of his two hurdles outings, coming home a comfortable winner of the Grade One Tolworth at Sandown on his most recent start in January.

Fellow Henderson inmate Jonbon is also unbeaten over hurdles, winning three times so far this season, including Grade Twos at Ascot and Haydock on his last two runs.

Dysart Dynamo is Willie Mullins' leading hope
Dysart Dynamo is Willie Mullins’ leading hope (Donall Farmer/PA)

The Willie Mullins-trained Dysart Dynamo is another with a 100 per cent record to defend, having hacked up by 19 lengths in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle last time out.

Mullins also runs Kilcruit, who was a Grade One bumper winner and got off the mark over hurdles at the third time of asking last time, plus Bring On The Night, winner of a Naas maiden last month.

Mighty Potter, JPR One, Shallwehaveonemore and Silent Revolution complete the nine-strong field.

Edwardstone will try to keep up his winning run
Edwardstone will try to keep up his winning run (Steven Paston/PA)

Edwardstone highlights 11 contenders for the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase.

Winner of his last four starts for Alan King, he won the Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase back in December and he will clash with another top level victor in Mullins’ Blue Lord here.

Mullins also has Haut En Couleurs and Saint Sam in the line up while Gordon Elliott’s Riviere D’etel, the Gavin Cromwell-trained Gabynako and Henry de Bromhead’s pair of Magic Daze and Coeur Sublime make up a strong Irish challenge.

Brave Seasca, Red Rookie and War Lord round out the list.

Stormy Ireland was a Cheltenham winner back in January
Stormy Ireland was a Cheltenham winner back in January (David Davies/PA)

The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle is also a Grade One contest and 12 have been declared for that, with Mullins’ trio of Burning Victory, Echoes In Rain and Stormy Ireland among the leading contenders.

De Bromhead’s Telmesomethinggirl, Queens Brook, Heaven Help Us and Marie’s Rock are other key names.

Lucy Wadham fields Martello Sky, winner of three of her four starts so far this term.

The Newmarket handler sent out United to finish second to six-times Festival winner Quevega in the 2009 renewal of this race, when it was a Grade Two contest, and Wadham feels Martello Sky shares some similarities with her former inmate.

Martello Sky shoots for Grade One gold
Martello Sky shoots for Grade One gold (David Davies/PA)

Wadham said: “It would be beyond our wildest dreams if she won.

“United was such a good mare but there wasn’t a mares’ race at the time at Cheltenham and then they created it. However, Quevega arrived and that was that!

“United came to us from Germany from the Flat so she was probably a bit sharper, but they are similar in the sense that they are both very athletic and not very substantial looking.

“They are both able to handle any type of ground and I think the other thing they have in common is that will to win. That is something you can’t buy.

“Martello Sky has done all her work now and her schooling. We have just got to keep her right until Tuesday, so that is a bit nerve-wracking but I can’t wait.”

Frodon will line up in handicap company
Frodon will line up in handicap company (Niall Carson/PA)

Former Ryanair Chase winner Frodon heads 24 for the Ultima Handicap Chase, with Gericault Roque the last to make the cut and Pontresina waiting in the wings as reserve.

The Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle has also drawn a full field of 22, with Mullins’ Gaelic Warrior well touted ahead of his debut for the yard having previously been trained in France.

Just seven have been declared for the Ukraine Appeal National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Novices’ Chase.

Mullins has a leading chance with Stattler in this contest, with Vanillier, Run Wild Fred and Pats Fancy also holding strong claims.

Jonbon and company please Henderson in Kempton spin

Unbeaten Jonbon put any rumours about his well-being to rest with a sparkling piece of work under Aidan Coleman as Nicky Henderson put 10 horses through their paces at Kempton on Tuesday morning.

The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hope drifted out on the exchanges over the weekend, but subsequently firmed up again and is currently 4-1 with the sponsors for the March 15 opener at the Cheltenham Festival.

Jonbon, who was on his toes beforehand, was the first to work on his own under Aidan Coleman and strode out nicely.

He was followed by Epatante (Coleman), Constitution Hill (Nico de Boinville) and Tweed Skirt (James Bowen) in the second group.

Captain Morgs (Bowen), I Am Maximus (De Boinville), Ahorsewithnoname (Coleman) were in the next trio to work and the spin was completed by Dusart (De Boinville), Dame De Compagnie (Coleman) and Pistol Whipped (Bowen).

Henderson laughed off rumours about Jonbon, which had left him incredulous when he arrived at Kempton last weekend.

He said: “We just know this sort of thing happens and it is absolute rubbish – at least I know it is rubbish. But trying to convince people! Once it starts, it is a joke.

“It was all around the racecourse, wherever I went. What is wrong with him? You saw for yourself. He is a bigger price than he was since before he ran!”

Jonbon had been a weekend drifter in the betting
Jonbon had been a weekend drifter in the betting (Steven Paston/PA)

The Seven Barrows handler, who was joined by Constitution Hill’s owner, Michael Buckley, was satisfied with the work.

“Nothing went badly wrong, which was nice,” he said. “They are never guaranteed to go exactly as you expect, but I would say by and large there were no nasty shocks, which was good.

“The amazing thing was their times. They are so consistent, each one was within a second or a second and a half of each one.

“Some find it easier than others as you saw, but I was so pleased with Jonbon, with his whole demeanour, his behaviour and everything.

“If he’d have got himself at all wound up, I was perfectly happy enough to take him straight home and not even go out there.

“He didn’t throw him around. He is much better doing his own thing. He doesn’t need any more winding up. He’s fit and I thought he strode out really well. He was moving beautifully.”

Epatante will try to regain her Champion Hurdle crown
Epatante will try to regain her Champion Hurdle crown (Steven Paston/PA)

He added: “It is just to get this little sharpness into them. It is not actually that they need a gallop. One or two of them do; Epatante hasn’t run since Christmas and had a good blow and she definitely needed a gallop.

“I purposely haven’t come with Shiskin. He didn’t need another gallop after Ascot. He worked this morning at home and Nico was pleased with him.

“The others who didn’t come were Chantry House and Champ, because they had races on Trials Day. They are not short (of a gallop).

“These are the ones that haven’t run for a length of time, just to get them out there and it just sparks them up a little bit. It is not that you are doing that much more. It is just a day out and it puts a spring in their step to be honest with you and they enjoy it.

“It is what they are born and bred to do. They know where they are and they go out there as happy as you like. They enjoy it.”

While Jonbon may have been on his toes, Constitution Hill drew a couple of lengths clear in his work, and “looked a picture” according to his owner.

“I don’t know what to make of these gallops,” said Buckley. “I just thought he looked well in himself, but Nicky will know if he worked well or not. It is a nice day out, anyway.”

Constitution Hill was his usual laid-back self. The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle favourite is likely to take the hullabaloo of the parade at Cheltenham in his stride.

Constitution Hill is the Supreme favourite
Constitution Hill is the Supreme favourite (Steven Paston/PA)

“Constitution Hill is impossible. He makes it look hopelessly easy,” said Henderson.

“But again, he is fit and well. He just needs to light the fire and it is a good time to do it, and he will do just one bit of work next week and that will be it.

“Jonbon was not doing as much as Constitution Hill and that was on purpose. He was only just to have a nice time, on his own, keep it cool and let him stride up the straight. He had a good breeze.

“He was sort of breezing five furlongs whereas the others were galloping two miles.

“He only cantered around for the first lap and we let him stride up the last six furlongs.

“If you’d have timed him over the last five, I suspect he would have been the quickest of the lot. He had done nothing until then. He was just having a breeze to come home.”

Nicky Henderson will work his Festival hopes again next week
Nicky Henderson will work his Festival hopes again next week (Tim Goode/PA)

The plan is for the Cheltenham hopefuls to do one more serious piece of work.

“They will have a gallop on the grass over a mile on Tuesday and we might stagger the days a little bit according to which days they are running, but Jonbon and Constitution Hill have never been together and they are not going to go together – it is as simple as that. Epatante will also work on Tuesday.”

Henderson added: “I was pleased with them. I didn’t want to see anything I didn’t want to see.

“Anything can go wrong. You are working these horses at speed. Lots of things can happen. They can break blood vessels. They can do serious damage to themselves standing in a box.

“When you are doing anything like this, the first thing you are trying to do is make sure it all works and there are no disasters.

“Touch wood, if A finishes in front of B that finishes in front of C, that is not relevant. I could probably tell you which order they were going to finish in.

“But the interesting thing was the times were very consistent. It doesn’t show you that anybody has gone faster than anybody else.”

He added: “Getting them there fit and well is the important thing.

“It is squeaky-bum time – and that applies to every trainer in the country.”

I’m frightened of all of them, says Constitution Hill’s owner

Owner Michael Buckley remains wary of each of Constitution Hill’s rivals as the Nicky Henderson-trained gelding prepares to take his chance in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The five-year-old is the current favourite for the eagerly-awaited Festival curtain-raiser, a status he earnt with a pair of wide-margin successes in the two novice hurdles he has lined up in since joining the Lambourn stable of Henderson.

The first was a 14-length win on his rules debut at Sandown in December, after which he returned to the Esher track the following month to win again when making a steep step up to Grade One level in the Tolworth.

Successful in the latter race by 12 lengths, Constitution Hill is a best-priced 9-4 chance to claim a Cheltenham success over the likes of stablemate Jonbon and the Willie Mullins trio of Dysart Dynamo, Kilcruit and Sir Gerhard.

Sir Gerhard was a six-length winner at the Dublin Racing Festival, but having watched the race Buckley felt his jumping left something to be desired.

Constitution Hill at Seven Barrows
Constitution Hill at Seven Barrows (Tim Goode/PA)

“I didn’t think he jumped particularly well at Leopardstown, Willie said after the race that he’d missed a couple in the middle of the race, well he didn’t jump the last particularly well,” he told Sky Sports Racing.

“I thought he landed on his hind legs from memory, but having said that he beat a lot of what were purported to be good horses very easily.

“He’s a very strong travelling horse and he left a lot of horses a long way back.”

Dysart Dynamo took the Grade Two Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle by 19 lengths in January, but there are questions over the depth of the form and Buckley pointed to Constitution Hill’s Tolworth defeat of Jetoile, who was then last in the Betfair Hurdle, as an example of how unpredictable races can be in the novice hurdle division.

“Dysart Dynamo won by 19 lengths and I don’t know how good the horses were in the race,” he said.

Constitution Hill and his Cheltenham rival Jonbon
Constitution Hill and his Cheltenham rival Jonbon (Tim Goode/PA)

“I haven’t really studied it and also because they were running in Ireland, I don’t really know the form, but none of us know the form of these novice hurdles really.

“The horse that Constitution Hill beat in the Tolworth (Jetoile) was last in the Betfair, it’s a tall order to expect any horse to make all in the way that he tried to do.

“I don’t know if he was fine or whether they used the horse up too much, also making all the running in that race and trying to make the running in a small field in the Tolworth on much heavier ground are different things.”

Though Henderson and Mullins seem to hold all of the Supreme aces, Buckley is mindful the cards held by Gordon Elliott and Henry de Bromhead are not to be dismissed and is also respectful of the threat posed by Kilcruit, a horse considered to be Mullins’ third string but one that seemed to rediscover some of the ability shown in bumpers when winning a maiden hurdle by 21 lengths at Punchestown in January.

“They’re all very unexposed, I’m frightened of all of them,” he said.

Constitution Hill winning the Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle
Constitution Hill winning the Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle (Steven Paston/PA)

“You talk about Willie’s and Jonbon, but Gordon will have something in it and Henry de Bromhead, there’s going to be, even in a small field, 12 or 14 runners, so you’re going to have to negotiate your way past a lot of good horses.

“Kilcruit might turn out to be a good horse, he was supposed to be, then he ran pretty poorly two or three times and now he’s come back to form.

“It’ll be a hard race and whoever wins it is going to have a really exciting prospect on their hands.”

The Supreme has a roll of honour that includes some of Henderson’s brightest stars, with both Shishkin and Altior claiming the race at the beginning of their careers, and the prospect of Constitution Hill adding his name to that list is a thrilling one for Buckley.

“It is possible that he could turn into on the those extraordinary horses, like Shishkin or Altior,” he said.

“It would be pretty damned exciting, I’ll say that.”

Constitution Hill and Jonbon preparing to battle for supremacy

Nicky Henderson welcomed the press into his historic Seven Barrows yard on Monday morning where several of his Cheltenham Festival big guns were on parade.

Two of them were shown together, just as they will be come the opening race of the meeting in three weeks, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Henderson was keen that Constitution Hill and Jonbon were brought out of their boxes at the same time, quipping, “they aren’t going to be split up in three weeks so you may as well see them at the same time”.

There had been musings that one of the pair may be stepped up in trip so that he did not have to run two of his brightest prospects against each other. But while Henderson is confident neither would have trouble staying further in time, their best prospect of winning next month comes in the two-mile championship.

Nicky Henderson at home with his dog at Seven Barrows on Monday
Nicky Henderson at home with his dog at Seven Barrows on Monday (Tim Goode/PA)

“It’s the plan to run them both (in the Supreme), but they are like cheese and chalk. Constitution Hill would stand in front of everyone all day and that is how he is in life. The other horse is the complete opposite, but he did behave well today. He’s usually hyper,” said Henderson.

“They are all in good form and both worked on Saturday, but not with each other and they will not, that’s too obvious, we may as well find out in three weeks. They don’t need to work together and it would ruin the whole party if we knew the answer!

“They would both get two and a half (miles) but we don’t want trials here, so there’s no point in working them together. The only time we did it with good horses was Simonsig and Sprinter (Sacre) for a couple of years as they were the only ones who could go with each other.

“If they galloped together they’d have a dust up and I don’t want that. They are very, very good.”

Although smart novice hurdlers were thin on the ground for Henderson last season, this year it is the opposite.

Aside from fielding two of the favourites in the Supreme, Walking On Air and I Am Maximus will head to the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle with claims.

“We decided not to run Walking On Air at Doncaster this week as for a couple of weeks I just wasn’t overly happy with him after Newbury. I’d have liked another run, but Nico (de Boinville) is confident if any horse can do it off one run, it’s him,” said Henderson.

“I Am Maximus has very good form, he was probably just outstayed by Henry Daly’s horse (Hillcrest) who is going for the Albert Bartlett.”

Epatante poses for the cameras
Epatante poses for the cameras (Tim Goode/PA)

Epatante might be in the strange situation of being a former Unibet Champion Hurdle winner running in the race as something of a forgotten horse given how Honeysuckle has dominated the division.

“We started this year and JP (McManus, owner) said we had two objectives, the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle and we got one and a half as we dead-heated in the Fighting Fifth!” said Henderson.

“I had it half in my mind that we could go up in trip for the Mares’ Hurdle and I said as such coming off the Kempton stand to JP, but I said we’d see what Nico said – anyway he said one word, ‘no’, so that was that.

“She’s just all speed and doesn’t want to be going over further than two miles.

“Honeysuckle does look very good, she’ll be very hard to beat, but I do think we are back to where she was when she won her Champion Hurdle, though I’ll admit that might not have been the strongest ever run.”

Horses return from the Seven Barrows gallops
Horses return from the Seven Barrows gallops (Tim Goode/PA)

Henderson will be represented in the Mares’ Hurdle by Marie’s Rock, who was very impressive at Warwick last time out.

“She looked special as a novice and then had to miss the Festival with a setback the week before,” said Henderson.

“I couldn’t get her back at all last year but this year has been more like it, bar the Lanzarote where she jumped into the back of one.

“I’m quietly looking forward to her, she’s pretty good.”

Henderson, who confirmed Dusart will run over three miles in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, will also be searching for a third win in the Gold Cup with Chantry House, a winner at the Festival as a novice last term.

“His win in the Cotswold wasn’t earth shattering, but we’ve reason to believe we’ve a little bit more up our sleeve,” said the man with 70 Festival winners to his name.

“He hadn’t really had a race since Aintree as he had a two-horse race at Sandown and a two-mile gallop in the King George, which didn’t work at all.

“We went with the cheekpieces last time, there was talk of doing it before the King George, I was against it as he looked so well on the gallops and schooling but I was wrong.

“It looks an open Gold Cup this year, nothing has really bounced out. It’s up for grabs.”

Henderson and Mullins big guns all entered at Cheltenham

Nicky Henderson’s duo Constitution Hill and Jonbon and the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Dysart Dynamo and Sir Gerhard are among the big names in contention for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

An initial 61 entries, down from 96 last season, have been made for the traditional Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser, with this year’s renewal having the potential to be one of the most eagerly anticipated in several years.

The marginal favourite at this stage is Constitution Hill following his demolition job in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, while his stablemate Jonbon maintained his unbeaten record with a more workmanlike display at Haydock on Saturday.

Dysart Dynamo, meanwhile, has risen from relative obscurity to becoming a major player after his jaw-dropping recent victory in Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

Sir Gerhard, winner of last season’s Champion Bumper, is the biggest priced of the quartet at 7-1, despite his thoroughly impressive hurdling debut at Leopardstown over the Christmas period.

It is important to note that all four horses, like several others, are also among the 95 entries for the longer Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

Gordon Elliott’s Mighty Potter, who has already won a Grade One novice event, is also doubly engaged, whereas the Paul Nicholls-trained Stage Star is just in the Ballymore.

Mighty Potter in action at Leopardstown
Mighty Potter in action at Leopardstown (Niall Carson/PA)

Ante-post punters also face the headache of trying to work out which horses will run in the Ballymore or tackle the three-mile Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, for which 52 names are in the mix,

Elliott’s pair of Ginto and Hollow Games, who were first and third in a Grade One at Naas recently, are among those given the twin entry in the two longer novice events.

A total of 59 entries are in the hat for the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Elliott’s Fil Dor heads the market ahead of the likes of Vauban (Mullins), Icare Allen (Mullins) and Knight Salute (Milton Harris).

Constitution Hill thriving following Tolworth Triumph

Nicky Henderson reports Constitution Hill to be “as fresh as paint” the morning after his demolition job in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.

Hugely impressive on his debut under Rules over the same course and distance a month ago, the five-year-old took the step up to Grade One level in his stride with a 12-length success.

Henderson, who was forced to watch the race from home after contracting Covid-19, could not be happier with how his charge has recovered from his exertions.

Speaking on Racing TV’s Luck on Sunday programme, the trainer said: “He was amazing (this morning). You’d hardly know he’d been anywhere yesterday – he looks as if he’d had a day in bed! That’s him – he’s as fresh as paint.

“He’s extraordinary because in all his slow paces, they’re not slow – they’re even slower than slow!

“But if you put him in behind a couple of horses, you don’t know that you’re sitting on anything until you pull him out and say ‘come on’ and it is like changing gear – he just takes off.

“He does it very quickly and very honestly. He loves schooling and loves work and has an extraordinary attitude to life.”

Constitution Hill’s victory saw him join stablemate Jonbon at the head of the ante-post betting for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March.

And while Henderson would not be against allowing his two star novices to do battle in the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser, he is not ruling out the possibility of one stepping up in distance for the two-mile-five-furlong Ballymore.

Jonbon in action at Sandown
Jonbon in action at Sandown (Steven Paston/PA)

He added: “Jonbon is a very, very good horse. I’m lucky that I’m the person that doesn’t have to split them – you’d be lucky to have one.

“They both look like two milers. The only way you could force the issue is to come to conclusion that one of them would get another half-mile.

“It interesting because a few years ago we had Simonsig, who was very strong. He looked like a two miler, but we actually ran him in the two-and-a-half, which he won very easily.

“I suppose you would (enter both horses in both novice hurdles). I’d need to speak to JP (McManus, Jonbon’s owner) and Michael (Buckley, Constitution Hill’s owner) and see if they’re both happy to do that.

“Both horses look as good as we’ve got anyway. They look like two milers, to be honest.”

Henderson also provided a positive update on the well being of Shishkin ahead of a potential clash with the Willie Mullins-trained Energumene in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot on January 22.

He said: “At the moment we’re preparing as if (we’re going to run).

“I cannot promise that’s what’s going to happen. I’d like Nico (de Boinville) to have a sit on him at the end of this week and he’s very good at being able to tell me – he was the one who told me (to run) before Kempton.

“If we’re happy next weekend, there’s every possibility he will go to Ascot.”