Nicky Henderson has defended his decision to withdraw Constitution Hill due to the ground at Ascot on Saturday, stating he should have been “banned for life” if he let his star hurdler take his chance in the race.

In a meeting that was plagued with a whole host of non-runners, including Cheltenham Grade One winners Edwardstone and L’Homme Presse, Champion Hurdle favourite Constitution Hill was eventually withdrawn at lunchtime following a week of talk over whether he would take his chance.

That left a field of just four in the Coral Hurdle, won by Gary Moore’s Goshen, on a disappointing card that included a two-runner 1965 Chase, a walkover in the second race and a three-runner opening hurdle.

Constitution Hill
Constitution Hill took last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in fine style

And while Henderson maintained he wanted to run his star on Saturday, the ground left him little option but to withdraw the unbeaten five-year-old.

“If I’d have ran Constitution Hill in that ground yesterday, in my opinion, he’d have been in his box for a year, wounded,” Henderson told Sky Sports Racing on Racing Debate.

“If it was the same ground [at the Cheltenham Festival], I wouldn’t. The ones I ran on Friday, thank god they were alright. We went to walk the course on Saturday and it has dried out quite considerably and Chris Stickels [Clerk of the Course] agreed with me.

“There wasn’t an issue at all, it was black and white. You couldn’t risk him on it and nor could Edwardstone or L’Homme Presse.

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Nicky Henderson admitted running Constitution Hill would’ve led to his horse to be in his box for the remainder of the season.

“No people in our world, the people that walk the courses, know the horses and have to accept the consequences of what happens when you run on that ground, there’s no possible way we would’ve taken that chance.

“It would’ve been suicidal, stupid and in the interest of horse welfare, we should’ve been banned for life if we had.

“I wanted to run. That’s always been the plan, he’s been prepared for it. It’s got to be something to do with that long, hot summer because it’s going from good to soft, to good to firm.

“Make no mistake, that was good-to-firm yesterday.”

That decision has left Henderson’s plans up in the air, with 2020 Champion Hurdle winner Epatante expected to run in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, live on Sky Sports Racing.

Constitution Hill could now head to Cheltenham for the International Hurdle next month, although Henderson was keen to insist that all options are open at this stage.

“He’s been out cantering this morning in case he goes to Newcastle, Epatante has been out this morning – she is going to Newcastle,” Henderson said.

“We had a long chat yesterday, we’ve got several options – the Fighting Fifth next weekend, (but) Newcastle were watering a week ago. That’s the way it is at the moment, life isn’t what it normally should be at this time of year.

“The horses are very important, they have to get out there. If we have to run them both, then we do.

“The alternative is to wait for the (Unibet) International (Hurdle) on December 10 (at Cheltenham), that would leave you 19 days, just short of three weeks, to the race in Ireland (Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown), that would be possible, or you wait to January 21 (Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock) as his follow-up race as you wouldn’t have time from the International to go to Kempton.

“So if he went to the International he either waits for Haydock on the 21st and then we find him another race.”

Shishkin pulled-up when last season in the Champion Chase

Henderson issues Shishkin warning

The Seven Barrows handler also issued an update on star chaser Shishkin, who is still on target to make a first run of the season in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown next month.”

“We are certainly considering and hoping that we can get to the Tingle Creek. At the moment all is going well and that is what we’re going to do,” he added.

“But if he’s not right and I’m not happy and he’s not happy we won’t. If it comes up on heavy ground, I’d say we won’t.”

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