Champion Hurdle star Constitution Hill will stay over hurdles this season, trainer Nicky Henderson has announced.
The six-year-old is unbeaten in seven career starts to date, with six of those victories at Grade One level, including a nine-length triumph in last season’s Champion Hurdle.
Following Constitution Hill’s Aintree Hurdle verdict in April, Henderson, owner Michael Buckley and jockey Nico de Boinville discussed a possible switch to chasing over the summer.
However, they have now decided to remain over the smaller obstacles, with another Champion Hurdle success the ultimate aim.
Henderson told the PA news agency: « The news on Constitution Hill is that after a lot of deliberating and a lot of advice from everybody in the world, because everybody wants a piece of this, he is going to stay over hurdles.
« At the end of the day, I don’t think it was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. People will ask if we’ve schooled him over fences and why have we come to this decision.
« He would jump fences with his eyes shut, if we wanted him to, but the basis of the decision was we had to be 100 per cent sure that he would stay three and a quarter miles (in the Gold Cup).
« There was nothing to be gained by switching to fences by running in an Arkle, Champion Chase and possibly a Ryanair, great races though they are, but the Champion Hurdle is the Champion Hurdle, so if you are going to run in anything you might as well stick to what you know.
« I dare say there will be plenty of people saying this is unimaginative, but there was no doubt in Nico’s (De Boinville) mind, stamina was likely to be a major issue and the only point in doing it was if one felt he could become a Gold Cup horse. »
« For all three of us, the decision was unanimous. You might say why did it take three months, but we all felt it was the right decision. »
‘We’ll start off in the Fighting Fifth’
Henderson also laid out the path for Constitution Hill’s upcoming campaign, starting with the Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, live on Sky Sports Racing.
« The main thing is we know exactly what we’ve got to try to do. We’ll start off in the Fighting Fifth, then there’s only 20-odd days until the Christmas Hurdle.
« This year what is different is they have moved the Unibet International to Trials Day at Cheltenham (January 27) when it used to be in December. That gives us another race potentially, before Cheltenham in March.
« We’ll see what happens after that because then you have Aintree and Punchestown. »