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04th Mar 2024

“This is very sad for all of us” – Constitution Hill ruled out of Cheltenham Festival

Niall McIntyre

The biggest name in horse-racing Constitution Hill has been ruled out of next week’s Cheltenham Festival.

Trainer Nicky Henderson has pulled the 2023 Champion Hurdler out of this year’s festival, with an unsatisfactory blood-test robbing the sports’ olympics of one of its brightest stars.

The seven-year-old was below par when working out in Kempton last week, trailing his stable-mates in his last serious bit of work before the biggest week in horse-racing.

He subsequently returned a dirty scope amid a flurry of rumours about his participation in this year’s festival.

But trainer Henderson has put an end to the rumours on Monday afternoon, confirming that the stable have ‘admitted defeat in the battle to get Constitution Hill ready for the Champion Hurdle.’

Constitution Hill defeated State Man by nine lengths in last year’s renewal, leading to him being labelled as the ‘horse of a generation.’ Willie Mullins’ State Man will now head into next Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle as red-hot favourite, after Henderson’s bulletin this morning.

“Very sadly, we are going to have to admit defeat in the battle to get Constitution Hill ready for the Champion Hurdle and therefore have to declare that he will not be running there this year,” said Henderson in a statement on Monday.  

“He has undoubtedly improved over the weekend and seems noticeably brighter than he was at the end of last week, and I really do think he was much perkier when ridden this morning.

“Unfortunately, the all-important blood test shows that although the figures have improved they are quite a way from being satisfactory for a horse to commence serious training and race in a week’s time. 

“There are three significant markers on the blood test, all of which have come down since Thursday’s sample, but are still raised enough to indicate that he has not fully recovered from whatever was ailing him. The only way to continue the improvement is not to stress him and he obviously cannot run in these Olympic Games if he’s not trained sufficiently. 

“This is very sad for all of us and particularly Michael but it is in everybody’s best interests that we ensure we have a fit and healthy Constitution Hill to win back his crown next year.

“As no further bulletins will be required I would just like to say how much we have appreciated everybody’s support and messages over the last week.”

Henderson had been criticised for what some deemed as holding Constitution Hill back by not running him in this year’s Dublin Racing Festival, with the horse having only ran three times in the last two years.