Nicky Henderson says Constitution Hill “couldn’t be better” following his summer break – but he is yet to partake in the all-important schooling session which could determine if jumps racing’s unbeaten superstar remains over hurdles or goes chasing.
National Hunt racing’s flagship horse is a perfect seven from seven in his career to date and has swept the board over timber, blowing away his rivals to win six Grade One prizes on the bounce.
Having conquered all over the smaller obstacles, the burning question is whether connections will take the plunge and embark on a campaign over fences with the reigning Champion Hurdler in the new season.
Constitution Hill is back at Seven Barrows following an enjoyable summer at Hillwood Stud, with owner Michael Buckley and Henderson having plenty to consider together with jockey Nico de Boinville.
“He couldn’t be better, he’s looking enormous and great,” said Henderson.
“We’re waiting for the weather just to have a look-see and it will probably be a few weeks before we do, but we’re looking at him, not that he can talk.”
It is not the first time Henderson has had to make the crucial decision over which direction to send one of his stable stars, with the situation reminding him of Altior’s early days at the Lambourn centre of excellence.
Patricia Pugh’s pride and joy was unbeaten in five outings over hurdles, but the decision was made to switch and he went on to win 15 of his 18 starts over fences, including the Champion Chase twice and the Arkle.
However, Henderson believes there are more variables at play on this occasion, with the pull of becoming the first horse since Dawn Run to win both the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup meaning stamina is a vital component connections need to be sure is in Constitution Hill’s armoury.
“It’s a difficult dilemma and I remember going through it with Altior when we were in exactly the same boat – OK, he hadn’t won a Champion Hurdle but he would have done if he had stayed hurdling, there is no doubt about that.
“It’s the same dilemma and again we schooled Altior over fences and he was absolutely brilliant and we decided to go down that route.
“There are other issues to consider this time, because it is also going to be a question of stamina really and we would be doing it if we think he is a stayer.
“You would want to be thinking along the Gold Cup lines, that would be the reason for going chasing.
“He can do most things because he is so relaxed about life and I think he would stay as far as you liked to be honest. He just goes to sleep very easily and he’s not one who will overrace.
“We’ve been talking about it as you can guess, but Nico is still away at the moment because there is a break (in the summer jumps season) and we’ll keep thinking, but he’s in very good form.”