What next for Nicky’s wonder horse?
TRAINER Nicky Henderson said spectacular Unibet Champion Hurdle winner Constitution Hill barely looked like he’d had a race yesterday 24 hours after his memorable victory on day one. The unbeaten Michael Buckley-owned six-year-old, who is notoriously laid back, will have one more race this season in the Aintree Hurdle at next month’s Grand National meeting. Henderson said: ‘He is still asleep! We trotted him up and he plodded up and down the yard. He was about as interested in what was going on as he was yesterday. The plan now is Aintree. There is a four-week break between the meetings this season. There is no point in doing anything else.’
The big question is what Constitution Hill will be asked to do now. He could stick to hurdling and dominate the division for the next few years but the indications are that his owner Michael Buckley wants to be more adventurous. After Tuesday’s race Constitution Hill’s jockey Nico De Boinville said he wouldn’t want him ‘pigeon-holed’ as a hurdler and that would indicate a switch to novice chasing next season is likely. A conventional route would be for Constitution Hill, who Henderson believes will have no trouble racing over longer distances, to return to the Festival for a novice chase event in 2024 ahead of a potential challenge for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2025. The lauded mare Dawn Run is the only horse ever to win both the Champion Hurdle (1984) and Gold Cup (1986).
Any decision on what happens next is unlikely to be announced until after the Summer when Buckley and Henderson have had time to ponder their options. Meanwhile, Henderson is anticipating a tough test for favourite Shishkin when he lines up in this afternoon’s Ryanair Chase. The trainer said: ‘He goes there in good shape. Nico has been very happy with him but Willie Mullins has a strong team and he’ll have to earn it. Nothing comes easy at Cheltenham.’