Poor scope rules Constitution Hill out of Unibet Hurdle

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Constitution Hill will head straight to the Cheltenham Festival after connections ruled him out of the Unibet Hurdle on Trials day at the track on January 27 due to an unsatisfactory scope.

But trainer Nicky Henderson emphasised in a statement that the hold-up would “not affect any future plans” for Constitution Hill, who remains long odds-on favourite to retain his Champion Hurdle crown on March 12

Constitution Hill’s anticipated second start of the season – in what was formerly known as the International Hurdle in its previous slot at Cheltenham’s December meeting – would have been the box-office attraction on Trials day, although his absence may embolden other connections to consider the £125,000 Grade 2, including those associated with JCB Triumph Hurdle favourite Burdett Road.

Henderson said in a statement posted on X: “We have reluctantly decided Constitution Hill won’t be able to run in the Unibet Hurdle at Cheltenham at the end of next week. A routine scope last week wasn’t entirely satisfactory and a follow-up this morning shows the issue hasn’t been 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 and then start his preparation for March.

“Both Michael [Buckley] and I and all the team had very much hoped for a better result this morning so that we could run on Saturday week but in the horse’s and indeed everybody’s interests, it would be foolish to do so and this does not affect any future plans.”

Constitution Hill remains an unchanged 1-3 with sponsors Unibet for the defence of his Champion Hurdle crown on March 12, a race he will head to following the same break as last year since his Boxing Day success in the Christmas Hurdle.

On that occasion he had two runs under his belt, having also won the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle a month before Kempton, an option that was lost this season owing to the weather.

James Owen will give Burdett Road the option of the Unibet Hurdle and the Triumph Trial Hurdle on January 27, while the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile a week later at Leopardstown also remains under consideration. 

“It was something we’ve had at the back of our minds because he’d get a very good allowance,” said Owen. “I know Constitution Hill was going for it and now they’ve said he won’t. We’re going to give him that entry and have that option as well.”

Burdett Road also holds an entry in the Champion Hurdle itself but Owen confirmed he would be sticking to the juvenile division at the festival.

“The Triumph is the aim this season with one more run beforehand but he will have two entries on Trials day as well as the Irish race,” said Owen. “I couldn’t be happier with him at home.”

While Burdett Road missed his intended run at Chepstow in the Finale Hurdle on account of heavy ground, the going will not play a major part in Owen’s decision for the Royal Ascot winner unless it comes up extremely testing again.

“It was soft at Cheltenham and we would have run him on soft at Chepstow,” said Owen. “Heavy ground really wouldn’t be his bag and he’d had two runs, so we didn’t really need to run. It was a shame and we were keen to run because we were at Chepstow.

“But we didn’t really need to do it and I’m glad we didn’t. He’s trained well since and we’re looking forward to running. He doesn’t need another run but it would be nice to give him a bit more education.”

Courtesy of Racing Post