Chepstow next target for Burdett Road

By Sports Desk December 04, 2023

Triumph Hurdle favourite Burdett Road will head to the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle over Christmas for the next step on his path to the Cheltenham Festival.

The Royal Ascot winner shot to the top of the market for the Triumph when supplementing his wide-margin Huntingdon win with a devastating display at Prestbury Park, coming from the back of the field to sprint clear of his rivals up the Cheltenham hill.

Trainer James Owen will now step Burdett Road up in class at Chepstow on December 27, where he will contest the Grade Two event his owners the Gredley family won with Allmankind back in 2019.

Owen said: “He’s come out of Cheltenham really well and is in full training and we’re looking forward to his next target, which will probably be the Finale at Chepstow.

“That will tell us what we do after that, whether we go straight to the Triumph or give him another race beforehand. Chepstow gives us plenty of time, all being well.

“It’s keeping us warm for Christmas and he’s an exciting horse for me, the yard and the Gredley family.”

Defi Du Seuil was the last horse to complete the Finale/Triumph Hurdle double and although Burdett Road faces the possible prospect of really testing ground at Chepstow on Welsh Grand National day, his handler believes the race comes at the perfect time in the season, with the Festival in March in mind.

Owen added: “He handled the ground well at Cheltenham and I know Chepstow can be a bit more extreme but it’s a very good prize (£80,000) and they are the kind of races we want to be going for going into Cheltenham.

“If it was absolutely bottomless, we would think about it, but it’s the aim to go there and he’s being trained for it and that’s where he will go.

“If it is tiring ground and he has a hard race, then we have plenty of time and can go to Cheltenham a fresh horse. On the flipside, if we need to give him another run, we’ve plenty of time as well. It just gives us that extra option.”

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    Nicky Henderson is not giving up hope of Constitution Hill being able to defend his Unibet Champion Hurdle crown and will have his unbeaten superstar “rescoped” again on Friday, after a below-par workout at Kempton Park on Tuesday put his participation in doubt.

    As has become tradition, Henderson took several of his Festival contenders for a spin at the Sunbury circuit, including Constitution Hill, whose only start this season was in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

    Bookmakers were quick to suspend the betting markets in the wake of the work, and the Seven Barrows trainer told the PA news agency his superstar had scoped badly following it.

    “Unfortunately, in a routine gallop this morning, Constitution Hill was very disappointing and it transpires, after the vet has scoped him, that there is evidence of mucus,” said Henderson.

    “We’re taking a sample of it to a laboratory to analyse it, which will tell us about the significance of it and we should know more after that.

    “Last week, he worked brilliantly and he was scoped 10 days ago, but these things happen, just like it did with him earlier in the year (having to miss Cheltenham on Trials day in January).

    “Horses are like humans, look how many people had the awful cough around Christmas that took ages to get rid of.”

    He went on: “The vets still think it could clear up in a week and all his serious work has been done already, whether he makes it (to Cheltenham) will depend on the severity of it.

    “He was disappointing this morning working with Sir Gino (Triumph Hurdle favourite), who he has worked with in the past. He would normally go easily with him, but this morning he couldn’t, so Nico (de Boinville) realised all was not well and wasn’t hard on him.

    “Obviously, the mucus was affecting him. He’s not coughing, he’s just got a dirty picture, as we say.

    “I’m not saying definitely either way (about Cheltenham) and I’ll keep hoping. As you can imagine, it has come as a bit of a shock.”

    Giving an update later on his X (formerly Twitter) account, Henderson said: “Following up on this morning’s situation with Constitution Hill, the sample from his tracheal wash has shown a small increase in the number of neutrophils which indicates a respiratory infection, which is significant but far from drastic.

    “He will start a course of antibiotics immediately and we plan to rescope him on Friday in order to monitor which way this is going. He would only be having light exercise this week following this morning’s racecourse gallop.

    “Both our own vet and the racecourse veterinary surgeon who scoped him feel we definitely have a chance of correcting this in time and we will be doing everything possible to do so. We have a fortnight to work him and it is possible, so we will keep everybody notified accordingly.

    “He is absolutely fine within himself and we have simply got to get on top of this issue as quickly as possible.”

    Having been the 1-4 favourite for the Champion Hurdle at the start of the day, by the afternoon Constitution Hill was significantly bigger at 5-4 with the sponsors, who make the Willie Mullins-trained State Man their 4-5 favourite. In their non-runner, money back betting market, Coral make State Man 4-7 and Constitution Hill 4-6.

  • Q&A: How worried should we be about Constitution Hill? Q&A: How worried should we be about Constitution Hill?

    The shock news of Constitution Hill’s disappointing workout and subsequent poor scope caused reverberations around the racing world just two weeks ahead of this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

    Here, we look at some of the key questions raised by the dramatic development:

    What problems arise from mucus in a horse’s trachea (windpipe)?

    Mucus is continually being produced by all horses and cleared from the lungs – if it is healthy and clear. However, bacterial or fungal infections lead to excess mucus secretion and any change in colour to yellow, green or even brown makes it thicker and harder to move. This mucopurulent discharge contains a combination of mucus and pus, which can cause difficulty in breathing and reduced exercise performance.

    Is this a regular occurrence?

    “Horses are like humans, look how many people had the awful cough around Christmas that took ages to get rid of,” commented trainer Nicky Henderson. Constitution Hill himself has been affected by a similar setback already this season, when forced to miss the Unibet Hurdle on Cheltenham’s Trials day. On that occasion, Henderson reported back in mid-January: “A routine scope last week wasn’t entirely satisfactory and a follow up this morning shows the issue hasn’t 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 rescoped in a fortnight’s time and then start his preparation for March.”

    How long does it take to clear up?

    Obviously, much will depend on how severe the infection is, but an immediate course of antibiotics will be administered and aid any recovery. Henderson said: “Both our own vet and the racecourse veterinary surgeon who scoped him feel we definitely have a chance of correcting this in time and we will be doing everything possible to do so. We have a fortnight to work him and it is possible, so we will keep everybody notified accordingly. He is absolutely fine within himself and we have simply got to get on top of this issue as quickly as possible.”

    Just how big is Constitution Hill for Cheltenham?

    Every sport needs its superstars, and in the shape of Constitution Hill the world of National Hunt racing certainly has one. He is a perfect eight from eight over hurdles and the idea of defeat when he is at his best is more or less unthinkable. Think Frankel, but over jumps.

    How has the Champion Hurdle betting been affected?

    Constitution Hill was as short as 1-4 to retain his crown, while Coral even made him favourite to record the biggest winning distance at this year’s Festival. However, he was eased out to as big as 6-4 at one point with Champion Hurdle sponsors Unibet, who then trimmed him back into 5-4 after a more encouraging update, with State Man their 4-5 favourite. That firm is one of only a few not now offering odds on a non-runner, no bet basis. With that concession, Constitution Hill is 4-6 at best with Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill – and still as short as 2-5 in places. William Hill spokesperson Lee Phelps said: “We might be non-runner, money back on the race, but we believe there is significant doubt now about Constitution Hill’s participation and even if he does run there have to be concerns, so we’re prepared to take him on.”

    Will any other connections now be tempted to run their horses?

    Bookmakers are taking no chances with the odds of Lossiemouth, but Willie Mullins may still prefer to keep his exciting mare separate from stablemate State Man, especially as last year’s Triumph Hurdle star is such a short-priced favourite for the Mares’ Hurdle. Owner Rich Ricci said after Lossiemouth’s latest Cheltenham success on Trials day: “We’ll go for the Mares’ Hurdle I think, and I think we learned last year that these four-year-olds turning five, it is very hard to run in open company.” Gordon Elliott could consider dropping Irish Point back from the Stayers’ Hurdle, with the Cullentra handler and owners Robcour also having Teahupoo at the head of the betting for that Thursday feature.

  • Angels Dawn to bid for Kim Muir repeat Angels Dawn to bid for Kim Muir repeat

    Angels Dawn will return to the Cheltenham Festival seeking a Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup double after producing what was arguably a career-best effort when third in last month’s Thyestes Chase.

    The nine-year-old gave trainer Sam Curling a day to remember last year when edging out Gavin Cromwell’s Stumptown at the end of the amateur riders’ contest.

    She would go on to finish a well-held sixth in the Irish Grand National on her next start, but following two outings over timber at the beginning of the current campaign, was back to her very best at Gowran when beaten just over three lengths by Thyestes winner Ain’t That A Shame.

    Angels Dawn is now primed for a repeat of her Cotswold heroics 12 months ago, with Curling once again calling on the services of crack amateur Patrick King to do the steering.

    “She ran great at Gowran and she likes soft ground but the ground was probably a bit too heavy for her,” said Curling.

    “I would say that was a career best considering the two horses that beat her raced wide and that was the place to be on the day. She went round on the inside and still managed to run well, so I would say it was definitely one of her better runs.

    “She ran a very good race and jumped super and she’s off a nice weight to get back in the Kim Muir and we’ll go back there now.

    “It’s going to be a bit harder for her and she’s going to be at least 10lb higher this year, but she seems to be going well and improved from last year. She was quite busy last year, but has not been as busy this year so she will be going there a bit fresher.

    “It was a brilliant day last year for us considering we just have a small team of horses and it will be great to go back there again with a bit of a chance.”

    Angels Dawn also holds an entry in the Randox Grand National, but currently sitting 66th in the handicap and with a reduced field of 34 heading to post at Aintree for the first time, she is unlikely to make the cut for the Merseyside showpiece and therefore full focus has been placed on a Festival repeat.

    “I would say she would have no chance of getting in there, so I would say it will be Cheltenham and then back to Punchestown and try for something there,” continued Curling.

    “She’s going well, so we will head back to Cheltenham and see how we get on there.”

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