Nicky Henderson says he « couldn’t rule out » a trip to Ireland
with Constitution Hill – but feels the Cheltenham Festival is the ideal location
for a showdown with Honeysuckle.
Constitution Hill made an impressive return to action with a front-running 12-length demolition of stablemate Epatante in last Saturday’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle, following on from his 22-length verdict in the Supreme at the Festival back in March.
The unbeaten five-year-old is a general 4-7 favourite for next year’s Champion Hurdle ahead of Honeysuckle, the winner of the Cheltenham highlight for the last two seasons who has yet to be topped in 16 career starts.
Honeysuckle is due to kick off her campaign in Sunday’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse – a race she has won for the last three years before going on to Irish Champion Hurdle glory and then Cheltenham success.
Henderson is targeting the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle with Constitution Hill at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, but admits plans in the new year are yet to be decided and while an early clash with Honeysuckle at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival is not completely off the table, the Seven Barrows trainer would prefer the headline clash to take place at Cheltenham in March.
He said: « I adore Honeysuckle, she is absolutely fabulous. We thought about going to Punchestown last year to take her on with Constitution Hill, but Peter Molony (racing manager to Honeysuckle’s owner, Kenny Alexander) quite rightly said to me ‘how would you feel if you were responsible for slaying Bambi!’.
« This year we are going to meet, I hope, because everybody wants to see it and it would be lovely if it was in March.
« We’ve a programme now that only takes us up to Christmas, it becomes more difficult after it and you couldn’t rule out a trip to Ireland because I can’t see the Kingwell (at Wincanton on February 18) being a great race for him and my favourite race, the Contenders at Sandown, has been thrown away.
« Consequently there’s Haydock’s Champion Hurdle Trial on January 21 which is a possibility but that really is about it, so it’s quite difficult.
« It’s either no more runs or…I can’t see the Honeysuckle-Constitution Hill clash happening before Cheltenham. I won’t say it will be a pity if it did, but that would be the right place to have the showdown. »