Nicky Henderson has stated that reigning Champion Hurdler Constitution Hill will need to be “as good as ever” in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on St Stephen’s Day.
The 2023 Cheltenham Festival winner will make his eagerly awaited return to action in the Grade One on Tuesday next, a race he won by 17 lengths from now-retired stablemate Epatante twelve months ago.
Henderson has originally planned to run the Michael Buckley-owned gelding in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle but weather forced its cancellation at Newcastle.
The Seven Barrows handler then aimed his stable star at the rescheduled Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Sandown, but he was declared a non-runner due to ground concerns.
Speaking about the six-year-old son of Rathbarry Stud’s Blue Bresil, Henderson said:
“He was ready for Newcastle, and he is ready for Kempton. He is big, well and strong. He came in looking very well. At one stage I was a bit behind as he was so big. He 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.
“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.”
No to Leopardstown and Punchestown
Looking at prospective races for the rest of the NH season for Constitution Hill, Henderson said:
“Constitution Hill could go to Kempton, Cheltenham, for the Unibet International Hurdle which they have stuck in on Festival Trials Day, then Cheltenham and Aintree.
“I would be tempted with Ireland (at the Punchestown Festival) but you have to be careful of the ground at that time of the year.
“He won’t go to Ireland (for the Dublin Racing Festival), definitely not, but I won’t look forward until Kempton is over.”