‘We have a problem’: Constitution Hill in doubt for Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival

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  • Top National Hunt trainer Nicky Henderson has revealed doubts surrounding whether Constitution Hill will line up to defend his Champion Hurdle title at Cheltenham Festival in two weeks’ time.

    The news comes after the seven-year-old, who was a top British hopeful for success at the Festival, performed below par in a racecourse gallop at Kempton Park yesterday (27 February), as his trainer and owner Michael Buckley looked on.

    “You would have to say at the very least that was disappointing and not what we were expecting,” said Henderson. “He has seemed in very good form but he was not himself there.”

    After Constitution Hill was scoped by the racecourse vet, Henderson said they “had a problem… there was some mucus and enough to suggest it would affect performance.”

    A further statement from the trainer said: “Following up on this morning’s situation with Constitution Hill, the sample from his tracheal wash has shown a small increase in the number of neutrophils, which indicates a respiratory infection, which is significant, but far from dramatic.

    “He will start a course of antibiotics immediately and we plan to re-scope him on Friday in order to monitor which way this is going. He would only be having light exercise this week following this morning’s racecourse gallop.

    “Both our own vet and the racecourse veterinary surgeon, who scoped him, feel we definitely have a chance of correcting this in time [for Cheltenham] and we will be doing everything possible to do so. We have a fortnight to work him and it is possible, so we will keep everybody notified accordingly.

    “He is absolutely fine within himself and we have simply got to get on top of this issue as quickly as possible.”

    Betting on the Champion Hurdle was suspended after news of Constitution Hill’s below par performance yesterday morning, and when it reopened at lunchtime it was the Willie Mullins-trained State Man who was odds-on favourite, with most firms putting last year’s runner-up at 1-2. Having been 1-4, Constitution Hill was pushed out to 5-4 by Champion Hurdle sponsors Unibet.

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