Nico de Boinville paid Constitution Hill a visit on Tuesday and said the former champion hurdler is feeling “a bit sorry for himself”.

Nicky Henderson’s stable star has had no end of health trouble this season, scoping dirty in January and then being laid low with an infection which ruled him out of the defence of his Champion Hurdle title.

Just when connections had hoped for some light at the end of the tunnel and a possible run at Punchestown, he was then struck down by suspected colic and spent a few nights at the vets.

It was a relieved Henderson that informed everyone on Monday he was now back at Seven Barrows and De Boinville was keen to check in on him.

“Everyone has been kept in the loop. I went to see him this morning and hopefully he picks up in the next couple of weeks,” he told Racing TV.

“He’s certainly feeling a bit sorry for himself and I can see why.”

Constitution Hill is back at Nicky Henderson’s yard after a colic scare, with any thoughts of a trip to the Punchestown Festival now firmly ruled out.

The Seven Barrows handler announced on Sunday that his superstar hurdler had been taken to a veterinary hospital due a suspected colic on Wednesday night, describing it as a “few traumatic days” with the unbeaten gelding.

Henderson issued an upbeat bulletin on Monday with Constitution Hill returning to the Lambourn yard to continue his recovery, although the 2023 Champion Hurdle hero is in need of an extended period of rest.

That means a potential clash with last month’s Cheltenham victor State Man is now off the agenda until next term.

In a statement posted on X, Henderson said: “Constitution Hill returned to Seven Barrows this morning and it is wonderful to have him home after what he has endured.

“He resumed normal feed yesterday with no further ill effects and had a nice pick of grass in the welcome sunshine.

“Hopefully this is all behind him now but I am afraid it is easy to see he had a difficult week and the reality is he is going to take some time to recover and put some weight back on again.

“Therefore our much anticipated match with State Man will have to wait until next season.”

Constitution Hill has run just once this season after cold weather scuppered his initial planned return in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, with deep ground seeing him bypass the rescheduled event at Sandown.

He won the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day in a canter, but an unsatisfactory scope saw him miss an intended Trials day run at Cheltenham before a respiratory infection ended his hopes of a Champion Hurdle defence last month.

The Fighting Fifth is pencilled in as a starting point for next season, though Henderson’s main priority remains Constitution Hill’s health.

He added: “As long as he is OK that is all that matters, but it has been a horrible few months since his great performance in the Christmas Hurdle. It is time for him to have a summer holiday now look forward to his return, hopefully in the Fighting Fifth.”

Nicky Henderson is planning a quiet few days as he tries to get to the bottom of the issue that scuppered his Cheltenham Festival hopes.

With Constitution Hill ruled out of a Champion Hurdle defence the week before the fixture due to a respiratory infection, Henderson’s week got off to an inauspicious start with five of his six runners pulled up on Tuesday.

That prompted the Seven Barrows trainer to rule out a string of leading contenders, with Jonbon missing his Champion Chase date, ante-post favourite Sir Gino sidestepping the Triumph Hurdle and Shishkin ruled out of his Cheltenham Gold Cup assignment due to an unsatisfactory scope.

A handful of Henderson runners did perform with credit at Cheltenham, most notably Champion Hurdle third Luccia, and Persian Time offered a further glimmer of hope when digging deep for a neck verdict in the Try Unibet’s New Acca Boosts Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase at Kempton on Saturday.

Henderson has no entries until Spring Note at Newbury on Friday and will now attempt to establish what has troubled his recent runners.

He told Racing TV: “It has been a difficult 10 days because to be fair, I think we knew before we went there that they hadn’t been running to what you would hope for.

“It’s nice just to sort of close the whole week down, we have nothing else (running) today.

“We probably will have hardly any runners next week and let the whole thing settle down and see if we can get to the bottom of what has been ailing, although it’s difficult to say ailing as they seem to be well, everything checks out right but they certainly checked out wrong at the top of that far hill last week – they couldn’t get over the top of it.

“I think we just take the whole thing apart and try to put it back piece by piece to see if there is a piece missing anywhere. I think there is something missing – there is no doubt about that – they’ve got to keep ticking over and I’d like to go quietly for one week and just let the whole thing die down.

“Everyone has been so incredibly helpful and I really appreciate it. We have just to got to see if there is a piece of the jigsaw missing and I hope it’s as simple as that, but it’s not there in black and white.

“Normally with the blood tests and scopes you can identify a problem – there’s just no sign of an issue. I do think the horses look well, they seem to be well, their work has been good, everything checks out right but they just weren’t performing at all and at the end, we just didn’t run – you were just getting scared to run.

“We will be quiet next week, hopefully we can then kick on to Aintree and Punchestown. There’s a lot still to come and they will come back I am sure. We have got a wonderful team at home and are surrounded by great people and we will get it back on track.

“I think everyone knows what Cheltenham is to nearly all of us and to come out of there like that – we’ve just had some wonderful years but you’re never going to get complacent about it. The amazing thing was the support we have had, everybody has been fantastic and I’m very grateful.”

Persian Time was last seen when pulled up behind Ginny’s Destiny at Cheltenham’s Trials day in January, but after bouncing back to form, a trip to Ayr could now be on the agenda for the gelding, who is owned by the McNeill and Stone families.

Henderson added: “He’s been good at home. On Trials day, he didn’t really want to have a cut at his fences there, then he was much happier today. He was tanking going down to the start and you could tell after the first three fences he was a different horse today.

“He’s a nice fellow and he’s going the right way, so let’s hope we can keep it going. There will be plenty more for him this season I would hope.

“I know Ayr is their (owners) very favourite track so I would think we might be scouring the programme book to see what there is for him there. he ran very well in a novice hurdle up there last year and just got touched off by what’s turned out to be a decent horse – Ayr could be good.”

Nicky Henderson was back among the winners on Saturday to give him something to smile about as he awaits the Cheltenham Festival fate of Constitution Hill.

The champion hurdler scoped badly in the immediate aftermath of his disappointing Kempton workout on Tuesday, while blood test results received on Thursday gave connections even more cause for concern.

A further scope conducted on Friday appeared more encouraging, but Henderson revealed a second blood test to be taken on Monday would be the “acid test”.

He said: “The blood test on Monday will tell us everything and we will know where we are after that.

“If we don’t get the results we want on Monday I wouldn’t go as far as to say it will be the end of the season. Let’s just cross each bridge when we come across it.

“When you train horses you are going to walk into these situations and you’ve got to face up to it.

“It had all been too easy. Everybody thinks it is ‘ABC’ and it has been with him, except he can’t tell you when he’s wrong because he so laid-back about life.

“He’s the slowest walker, the slowest trotter and you have to drag him out of bed on a morning. With most horses you can tell, but with him you can’t as he can’t talk to you, most horses can.”

Spring Note won at Newbury for the Seven Barrows handler, while the Grade One-winning Jango Baie finished second in front of Henderson at Kelso, after which he said: “That’s the second time he’s had to run in a really good race with a 5lb penalty, it stops them. But if you win a Grade One you can’t have your cake and eat it.

“He’s a good horse. He wants to go up in trip, there’s no doubt about that, two-mile-two is tight for him. You could go two and a half but he won over two miles at Aintree, mainly because he stays.

“Over fences he’ll be going three, I’d imagine, and he’ll be very good. This time next year hopefully we’ll be talking about Cheltenham with him.

“Of course it’s nice to see one run well, I’m conscious of what’s happening, but it’s not a lot of pleasure, I can tell you that.

“To be fair the ground in our neck of the woods is so bad, and our horses always want better ground.”

Nicky Henderson expects a second blood test on Monday to be the “acid test” in Constitution Hill’s race against time to be fit for the Cheltenham Festival.

The unbeaten and defending Champion Hurdle hero worked poorly at Kempton Park on Tuesday, putting his participation at the showpiece meeting in major doubt.

A scope showed mucus in his lungs and despite slightly more positive news in the following days, results of a blood test on Thursday proved to be another blow.

In a statement issued on X on Friday, Henderson revealed the results of a second scope were more encouraging, but admits his stable star is still “unwell” with his intended return to action in the Cotswolds a little over a week away.

Henderson said: “On what was about as foul and filthy morning as you can imagine at Seven Barrows, Constitution Hill had a light exercise and was rescoped afterwards as planned. This showed the Neutrophil percentage, indicative of infection, was back to normal parameters with no mucus evident.

“This is obviously positive news but we cannot hide behind yesterday’s blood test which basically reveals that, in simple terms, our horse is ‘unwell’.

“He will have a quiet weekend and we propose, as originally planned, to take a further blood test on Monday which I believe will be the acid test. Therefore I think we might leave it until then to keep everybody updated on the situation.”

Constitution Hill was reported by Nicky Henderson to be looking “alert and bright” on Thursday morning – but until the champion hurdler is scoped again on Friday his participation at Cheltenham is no clearer.

The racing world was rocked on Tuesday, when the unbeaten seven-year-old went to Kempton for a routine pre-Cheltenham gallop but was effectively pulled up by Nico de Boinville.

It transpired after he was scoped that he had mucus in his lungs, and Henderson faces a race against time to get his stable star back to full health for a week on Tuesday.

“He can’t stay in his box, if we’ve got any pretentions of running in the Champion Hurdle, you can’t just knock it off and tuck him in bed,” Henderson told Sky Sports Racing.

“We’ve got to find the right balance between keeping him moving but not stressing him in any way at all. He is the most relaxed person you’ll ever come across and I actually think he looks quite bright.

“His coat looks bright and he’s the same as he is every day, he’s no different than he is on a normal morning because he’s just very laid back about life. But at least he’s got the brains to tell us when he’s wrong he is wrong and it is the first time he’s had to do that.

“He looks alert and bright, but he obviously wasn’t feeling well as the work was so sub-par it wasn’t true.

“The plan is to scope him again on Friday. His blood was taken this morning and it will be interesting to see what that says.

“It will be very interesting what comes out tomorrow to see what the mucus level is.

“Horses often get these problems, they are like kids in school. He hasn’t coughed at all. It’s exactly like a school, you can’t have 100 per cent of them right all of the time, it’s not possible. Normally we’d have time to get over it, it’s the timing that is wrong.

“If he was a normal horse you’d leave off him for a week and aim at something else but while there is something else to aim at, there’s only one Champion Hurdle.

“You’d have to be 100 per cent for a race like that. I’ve heard people say he’s got so much in hand it won’t matter but he hasn’t got anything in hand, we all know it’s going to be tough, Champion Hurdles are tough naturally.

“They have to put an enormous amount in and I think the thing with horses as good as him is they can put 110 per cent in, maybe a lot of horses can’t. You can’t go in half-cooked.

“Work-wise he’s done all his galloping, we’d do another piece of work next week to see where he is if everything is testing good. That would have to be him at his best.”

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.

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.

Constitution Hill sent shockwaves through the Unibet Champion Hurdle market on Tuesday morning, with the participation of the reigning champion seemingly in doubt following a below-par workout in a pre-Cheltenham visit to Kempton Park.

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

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

“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.”

National Hunt superstar Constitution Hill heads 22 entries for the Unibet Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Nicky Henderson’s unbeaten charge was a nine-length winner of the hurdles highlight at Prestbury Park last year, one of his eight victories under rules to date.

Constitution Hill is already long odds-on for a repeat on March 12, having made a faultless return in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The Willie Mullins-trained State Man chased him home last year and he is among seven contenders for the trainer this time around.

Lossiemouth, winner of the Triumph Hurdle last term, features in the Closutton squad along with 2023 Champion Hurdle fourth Vauban, Echoes In Rain, Gala Marceau, Impaire Et Passe and Zarak The Brave.

Zanahiyr was third behind Constitution Hill 12 months ago and he has been entered by Gordon Elliott, with stablemates Irish Point and Pied Piper also on the list.

Henderson has alternates in First Street, Under Control and Luccia, while four-year-old Burdett Road is an intriguing entry for James Owen.

Harry Fry’s Love Envoi, the Henry de Bromhead-trained Bob Olinger and popular veteran Not So Sleepy are others of note.

The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle takes place on the same day as the Champion Hurdle and Lossiemouth, Echoes In Rain, Gala Marceau, Love Envoi and Luccia are all entered for that Grade One.

Ashroe Diamond, Magical Zoe and Jetara are others towards the head of the betting, with Jamie Snowden’s You Wear It Well looking for a second Festival win after taking the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle last term.

A total of 25 have been entered for that race – a number which is surpassed by the 36 initial contenders for the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.

Run on March 14, the three-mile contest has a clutch of previous winners in the potential line-up, with Elliott’s 2023 hero Sire Du Berlais, Gavin Cromwell’s dual victor Flooring Porter and 2019 winner Paisley Park all potentially coming back for more.

Teahupoo and Irish Point are other key contenders for Elliott, with potential French raider Theleme prominent in the betting having won an Auteuil Grade One in November.

Crambo and Sir Gerhard are in the mix, with the Lucinda Russell-trained Ahoy Senor an interesting possible after a couple of disappointing chase starts this term.

Nicky Henderson is unconcerned about the lack of a recent run for Constitution Hill ahead of his bid for back-to-back victories in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle.

On what Henderson sees as the first day of a “new term” for his star pupil, he will belatedly get his season under way at Kempton on Boxing Day, with the weather having scuppered an intended defence of the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle.

The Seven Barrows trainer flirted with the idea of running the six-year-old in a rescheduled Fighting Fifth at Sandown seven days later, but ultimately branded the prospect of running in heavy ground just over a fortnight before his festive target as “physically not possible”.

“That (Newcastle) was the original plan and that is where he would have been, and we would have been on the same leg as last year. Unfortunately, we are not,” said Henderson.

“He was ready for Newcastle, and he is ready for Kempton. He is big and well and strong, he came in looking very well. At one stage I was a bit behind as he was so big.

“It took a bit longer to get the shape back into him, but that is long gone. He has had to do a bit more work as it is all very easy to him. His schooling is unbelievable.

“As we have always said, his temperament is such that it (journey to Newcastle) wouldn’t make any difference to him and he’s had an away day.

“If he comes through this and it goes like last year I’d be confident about the next bit. But the first day out of the year is crucial, it’s like a first day at school. He’s been good at home, but there are new kids on the block and he’s starting a new term.

“He has got to be as good as he ever was at Kempton, then we can look forward.”

With the privilege of training a horse of Constitution Hill’s stature comes no little amount of pressure, but it is something Henderson embraces.

He added: “If you guys (press) didn’t want to talk to us or there was no pressure then it would be time to give up as you have nothing to talk about.

“Sprinter Sacre was in this position when he was at his best. When he was in his first innings and at his absolute pomp, he was seriously unbeatable.”

Constitution Hill will be extremely cramped odds to dispatch of his Kempton rivals, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Rubaud seemingly his biggest threat.

The five-year-old is unbeaten in his last four starts, having landed the Dovecote at Kempton, the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr, a Listed prize at Kempton and the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton – but Nicholls is well aware his latest assignment is an extremely difficult one.

He told Betfair: “He is going to be an awesome chaser next season, but his form over hurdles is so progressive he deserves a shot at this Grade One prize.

“While he has won his last four starts I realise he probably faces an impossible task against Constitution Hill, but we are giving it a go and if he finishes second we will be delighted.”

Henderson has a second string to his bow in First Street, while Kerry Lee has declared both Nemean Lion and Black Poppy.

Alan King’s admirable veteran Sceau Royal completes the field.

Nicky Henderson is looking forward to putting a frustrating period behind him by belatedly taking the wraps off Constitution Hill and Shishkin at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The superstar duo have not been seen in competitive action so far this season and, not for the first time, the Seven Barrows handler has drawn criticism from some quarters for his cautious approach.

There have, though, been extenuating circumstances on both counts, with Constitution Hill’s intended defence of the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle scuppered by the weather, and Shishkin even getting to the start of Ascot’s 1965 Chase, only to dig his heels in and refuse to jump off with the other runners.

Henderson subsequently entered and declared his top-class pair for a rescheduled Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Sandown – and while the decision to withdraw both on account of testing conditions left many disappointed, the trainer insists with Constitution Hill in particular, it was a straightforward call.

“You couldn’t run at Sandown and Kempton. It was physically not possible,” Henderson said at a media morning at his yard on Tuesday.

“You knew straight away you were going to have to sacrifice one race for the other and we decided we would stick to the original plan.

“I wasn’t going to put him in at Sandown until the very last minute. I had already said to Michael (Buckley, owner) ‘I don’t think this will work’, but he said ‘let’s see’.

“You could not have possibly run in both races and that is what some people fail to understand. That is the only thing I find frustrating.

“Of course, it is frustrating when you drag him all the way to Newcastle and back again. That was bad luck. That was the original plan and that is where he would have been, and we would have been on the same leg as last year – unfortunately, we are not.”

While Constitution Hill’s preparation for a bid to claim back-to-back Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle wins has not gone entirely to plan, Henderson is confident the lack of a recent run will not be a hindrance.

He is, though, keen to see how the six-year-old performs before considering plans beyond Christmas.

Henderson added: “He was ready for Newcastle, and he is ready for Kempton.

“We have got to get out there and he has got to go through the motions. He has got to be as good as he ever was at Kempton, then we can look forward.

“He could go to Kempton, then Cheltenham for the International Hurdle, which they have stuck in on Trials Day, then Cheltenham (for the Champion Hurdle) and then Aintree.

“He won’t go to Ireland then (for the Dublin Racing Festival), definitely not, but I won’t look forward until Kempton is over.”

While much is made of Constitution Hill’s apparently bombproof temperament, the same cannot be said at this stage of his stablemate Shishkin following his much publicised refusal in Berkshire last month.

Henderson, however, insists that while the nine-year-old has his quirks, his behaviour tends to improve as the season progresses.

He said: “Constitution Hill is the A, B, C of training horses and you point him in the right direction. He is very straightforward, as he has got a very good temperament.

“Shishkin is very straightforward, but the early part of the season with him is probably the most difficult. That was a bit to do with what happened at Ascot.

“When he is fresh, he is a bit of a plonker! I sent him to Zara Tindall to go and do some work with her. It was good condition and dressage work to get some manners on him and get the basics done. I think he really enjoyed it.

“He doesn’t enjoy that bit here early on and I don’t know why. He can be stroppy. Once he has had a run, he is completely the opposite. He is putty in our hands.”

As a six-time Grade One and dual Cheltenham Festival winner, Shishkin’s raw ability is not in question, but Henderson feels he faces an almighty task to win the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on what will ultimately be his first start since impressing at Aintree in the spring.

“I’ve been saying all along I don’t see how you can win a King George without a race and the answer is you can’t. On the other hand, we have got nowhere else to go, as there isn’t another race until the Cotswold Chase,” Henderson went on.

“If I ran him at Sandown in the Fighting Fifth, I would have bottomed him and he wouldn’t go to the King George, so therefore I had to take him home and run him straight in.

“He has been going, for him, really well, and his schooling the other morning was fantastic. I’m not going to sit here and tell you he can win a King George, but I do think he can run very well.

“The trouble with Kempton is that some people think it is an easy three miles because it is flat and fast and there are no hills, but there isn’t a place where they can take a blow or have a breather. You jump, jump, jump, then go flat out around a bend, then go jump, jump, jump. It is all go, go, go.

“We have got to have a go, as we have no other option. We have got to Christmas and he hasn’t had a run, but that is not his fault and I don’t think it is mine either, as we have been trying.”

On his plans to try to avoid a repeat of his Ascot antics, the trainer added: “George (Daly) will go down to the start with him, as he knows him really well.

“We can’t do anything. Charlie Brooks mentioned a hunting horn, but Barney (Clifford, clerk of the course) won’t let me get up a tree and blow it!”

Nicky Henderson has withdrawn Constitution Hill and Shishkin from the rearranged Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Sandown.

While the meeting passed a 7.30am inspection, rain was still falling throughout the morning at the Esher track on already heavy ground on the hurdles track and conditions are being monitored.

Champion Hurdle winner Constitution Hill was supposed to make his seasonal reappearance at Newcastle last weekend but the meeting was abandoned with the Fighting Fifth moved to Sandown.

Shishkin was an intended runner at Newcastle also, in the Rehearsal Chase, but in an attempt to get a prep run into him before the King George, Henderson had declared him alongside his stablemate.

However, neither will run at Sandown, nor will promising novice hurdler Willmount in an earlier race but Jonbon is still an intended starter in the Tingle Creek.

Henderson said on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Due to the extremely testing going, we have decided that Constitution Hill will not run in today’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Sandown because it would simply not be fair to race him under such extreme conditions on his first run of the season.

“It is too close to Boxing Day, and he can’t do both, so, all being well, he’ll go straight to Kempton for the Christmas Hurdle.

“Shishkin has also been withdrawn, along with Willmount from his intended engagement in the Listed Novices’ Hurdle.”

As for Jonbon he added: “He has had a run so is fit and well, and the ground is much more suitable on the chase course. It is very unfortunate, and we are all sorry they won’t be turning up, but we have to put the horses first — it’s as simple as that.”

Constitution Hill, Shishkin and Jonbon headline a star-studded card at Sandown on Saturday.

The rearranged Fighting Fifth Hurdle will see Nicky Henderson saddle both Constitution Hill (Nico de Boinville) and Shishkin (James Bowen).

Taking on the Seven Barrows duo are Goshen, Not So Sleepy and top-notch mares Love Envoi and You Wear It Well.

On an important afternoon for Henderson, Jonbon is odds-on for the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase in which he will face four rivals – Boothill, Edwardstone, Haddex Des Obeaux and Nube Negra.

Willmount is another leading contender for the team as the impressive Newbury winner moves up to Listed level in the Betfair Claremont Novices’ Hurdle.

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

Constitution Hill could face up to 12 rivals when he makes his seasonal comeback in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in December.

Nicky Henderson’s gelding is unbeaten under rules and is the undisputed star of the hurdling division, winning all seven starts and among them six Grade Ones.

He was last seen claiming back-to-back successes at the big spring festivals, winning the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and then the Aintree Hurdle over two and a half miles before heading off on a summer break.

A graduation to chasing was discussed and ultimately vetoed, meaning the six-year-old will take a familiar route through the division by starting out in the Fighting Fifth – a race he won by 12 lengths last year.

“He’ll go straight to the Fighting Fifth, that’s December 2, hopefully we’re all ready for that,” Henderson told Racing TV.

There are 12 others engaged, amongst them is Jamie Snowden’s You Wear It Well, a Cheltenham Festival winner who made light work of her seasonal debut when winning Wetherby’s Listed bet365 Mares’ Hurdle by three lengths at the weekend.

There is a programme of valuable mares’ events throughout the term and that is the path the six-year-old is likely to follow, though the Fighting Fifth option remains open for now.

“She did really well, she was carrying a penalty first time out and it’s always nice to see them stepping up to the mark like that,” Snowden said of her Wetherby run.

“The mares’ route maps itself out, from Sandown to Warwick to Cheltenham in March. Sandown is in January, so the question is whether we think about getting a run into her before then.

“I have just put an entry for the Fighting Fifth this morning, I’m not sure we’d want to be taking on Constitution Hill necessarily, but it doesn’t hurt to put an entry in.”

Harry Fry’s Love Envoi is another mare entered, with Kerry Lee responsible for a duo of entrants in Black Poppy and Nemean Lion.

Sandy Thomson has put forward Benson and Phil Kirby has entered Jason The Militant, whereas Hughie Morrison could saddle the dual-purpose gelding Not So Sleepy, who dead-heated with Epatante in 2021.

Alan King’s Sceau Royal is another seasoned campaigner with an entry, alongside which Brian Ellison has entered Salsada, James Owen has Too Friendly and Iain Jardine has Voix Du Reve.

Page 1 of 2
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.