Michael Buckley: 'No chance Constitution Hill could run at Punchestown - I just hope he's back next season to give us more great moments'

Constitution Hill (Nico de Boinville) clears the final flight to win the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton
Constitution Hill: back at Seven Barrows after time in veterinary hospitalCredit: Edward Whitaker

Owner Michael Buckley on Monday expressed relief Constitution Hill was back at Nicky Henderson's Seven Barrows base after a colic scare and said he hoped a summer holiday could help his pride and joy return to his "out-of-the-ordinary" best next season.

Buckley and Henderson saw the brilliant seven-year-old tower over his rivals last season when his unbeaten run included victory in the Champion Hurdle.

Things, however, have not gone smoothly since the autumn and Constitution Hill won the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton before his campaign unravelled when he underperformed in a pre-Cheltenham Festival workout.

A respiratory infection was discovered and he missed his Champion Hurdle defence, although Henderson then raised the possibility of the son of Blue Bresil competing at Punchestown's festival.

The chance of that was dashed last week when he suffered another health setback and he was admitted to a veterinary hospital on Wednesday with suspected colic.

He returned to Henderson's Lambourn stables on Monday and the six-time champion trainer, whose string as a whole had not been firing on all cylinders, said it was "wonderful to have him home".

"He resumed normal feed yesterday with no further ill effects and had a nice pick of grass in the welcome sunshine," he added.

"Hopefully, this is all behind him now, but I am afraid it is easy to see he had a difficult week and the reality is he is going to take some time to recover and put some weight back on again.

"As long as he is okay, that is all that matters, but it has been a horrible few months since his great performance in the Christmas Hurdle. It is time for him to have a summer holiday now and look forward to his return, hopefully in the Fighting Fifth.

"Michael Buckley and I and all at Seven Barrows would like to thank the literally thousands of Constitution Hill supporters for all their kind messages. I would like to say they are appreciated by him, but they certainly are by all of us! I would also like to thank the vets."  

Echoing those sentiments, Buckley, a close and longtime friend of Henderson, said: "He's had a very tough few weeks, first with that bad infection, which I think was different from what Nicky's other horses had, and something was clearly awry with this on top of it.

"When you're on a lot of antibiotics to fight that infection, you're probably not best-placed to deal with this, but hopefully we don't have a recurrence and he can put himself back together over the summer.

"He's been knocked about a bit, so there's no chance you could consider running again this season, but you won't believe how much it means to me and Nicky all the messages we get about him.

"Okay, I live in London, which is a massive city, but the other day I was in Sloane Square and someone stopped me and asked about him, and then the next day someone else did the same. These aren't people I know, just well-wishers. 

"Fans of racing love to see really good horses, ones out of the ordinary, and that's the same with anything; people like seeing something spectacular whether it's a film, play, performance, or a sports event. I just hope he has a good summer and comes back next season to give me, Nicky and all his supporters more of those great moments."

Michael Buckley with Constitution Hill
Michael Buckley with Constitution HillCredit: Edward Whitaker

In Constitution Hill's absence, State Man, who he had thrashed last year, landed the Champion Hurdle.

Buckley, who also has interests on the Flat, added: "The whole season has been a bit of a disappointment, starting with a drive to Newcastle before turning around when we knew the Fighting Fifth would be abandoned. Winning the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day was great, but that was the end of it and it was tragic not to be at the Cheltenham Festival for the Champion Hurdle.

"When you look how close Luccia finished to State Man, you have to think he'd have had a great chance, and I say that with no disrespect to Willie Mullins, or anyone else connected to State Man."

What is colic?

Colic is a term used to describe the clinical signs of abdominal pain in a horse. Horses are particularly sensitive to pain originating from the abdomen and are only able to respond clinically in a particular way. 

The anatomy of the horse's intestinal system and its complexity add to the susceptibility of this syndrome. Those clinical signs will include looking uncomfortable, pawing at the ground, increased heart rate, sweating, flank watching and frequently lying down and continuously rolling. These are all indications that the horse has some sort of abdominal pain. That pain may be because of distension of the gut from gas or an impact from fibrous food, all the way through to a twisted bowel, which may be fatal if not surgically treated.

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James BurnLambourn correspondent

Published on 1 April 2024inBritain

Last updated 17:34, 1 April 2024