Henderson makes us wait to see Constitution Hill
Mike Deasy on Nicky Henderson sending Constitution Hill direct to Cheltenham, BBC racing coverage under fire, Lingfield’s Winter Million in search of sponsors, obstacles to going racing, and more
Constitution Hill, the runaway victor of Sandown’s Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle, will not now be seen by racing enthusiasts until the Cheltenham Festival where his target is the first day’s curtain-raiser, the Supreme Novices Hurdle.
He could have made an appearance at Newbury on 12 February in the Betfair Hurdle where he’d have been watched by racegoers and ITV Racing viewers alike.
Of Constitution Hill, trainer Nicky Henderson (pictured) said: “He’s not in the Betfair Hurdle and, unless you are in a race like that, what are you going to learn?”
Quite possibly nothing, but it’s a shame this exciting hurdler, who came home by 12 lengths in the Tolworth, having opened his account a month earlier at Sandown with a 14-length victory, will be giving Berkshire the swerve.
We who love racing can only shrug our shoulders that a hugely promising talent is another Seven Barrows resident being kept under wraps.
Another absentee from the Newbury highlight is Good Risk At All. The well-fancied 10/1 shot does not qualify to take part in the Betfair Hurdle as he’s not run in enough races.
BBC racing coverage under fire
Having noted that a week into January the BBC Sport website had yet to post the 2022 racing fixtures, it’s pleasing to see that’s now been rectified.
But, otherwise, the site’s racing pages are lamentable. Its most recent posting was 12 days ago with a report of 17two-year-old Conner McCann winning the fourth race of his career on New Year’s Day at Musselburgh.
The paucity of racing coverage by BBC Sport was noted by the Daily Mirror’s sports columnist Andy Dunn who wrote the BBC’s “abandonment” of racing was a “national disgrace”.
That said, I don’t know if Dunn checked the Mirror’s website the morning his criticism was published, but it still had the preceding day’s tips.
Not seeing the bigger picture
Under the heading “The Big Picture” the Daily Express published a splendid photograph, taken on the landing side of a fence, showing racehorses pictured in mid-air, silhouetted against a bright blue sky, as they jumped an obstacle at Leicester.
Pity then, that the “big picture” occupied a space less than the size of a postcard – the photographer who captured the moment deserved a double-page spread.
Winter sponsors needed
We’re now just a fortnight away from Lingfield’s inaugural Winter Million weekend of jump racing (Friday and Sunday) and all-weather action (Saturday). All three days will be covered by ITV Racing.
The race-by-race prize money is attractive and the Arena course must be hoping it can tempt some Irish raiders for the jump races.
And credit too, for the introduction of a syndicate owners’ lounge. Maybe a future meeting could host one of the recently proposed races exclusive to syndicate-owned horses.
What Lingfield has yet to do is attract a portfolio of sponsors for the first and third days. Whilst the Saturday all-weather races can boast support across the card from Betway, Corals and Mansionbet, no commercial entities are yet associated with the NH days.
Mind you, they’re in good company. Cheltenham are still on the hunt for a sponsor of the Gold Cup at the Festival.
But back to Lingfield where a more pressing matter for the Surrey track is the weather. As one of the Paddy Power TV ads jokingly notes – Lingfield is often a total washout.
Looking at the current weather forecast, it’s expected to be a dry run-up to Winter Million weekend. Fingers crossed.
Obstacles to going racing
Plans to go to Cheltenham on New Year’s Day were scuppered by reduced train services due to the impact of Covid. Of the two hourly trains from London Paddington to Cheltenham that would arrive in time for the first race, one was cancelled because of lack of train crew and the other was fully booked.
Those racegoers who went to Sandown for the Tolworth had to get a replacement bus from nearby Surbiton. Helpfully, the racecourse laid on a shuttle bus to and from the track, albeit the signage at Surbiton station was non-existent.
For this weekend’s Lanzarote meeting racegoers can get all the way to Kempton Park by train without changing, but the journey time from London is increased from 44 minutes to 75 minutes.
And looking further ahead, the Sunday of Lingfield’s Winter Million will require two separate replacement bus journeys to get from London to the racecourse.
Obstacles to overcome even before your selections have done the same.