Jumps Stars Take Centre Stage This Weekend

Feature events at Ascot and Haydock

The National Hunt season has only just started, but the quality of horses declared is top-class judged by the feature events at Ascot and Haydock on Saturday. Winter hasn’t arrived, but champions Constitution Hill, L’Homme Presse and A Plus Tard should all be in action.

Constitution Hill is ready for Ascot! (Pic – Facebook – At The Races)

Officially rated 170, last season’s Champion Novice hurdler Constitution Hill prepares to make his seasonal debut in Saturday’s Gr2 Coral Hurdle at Ascot. Trainer Nicky Henderson was pleased to see the rain arrive on Monday ahead of the contest which will ease the ground sufficiently for the Champion Hurdle favourite.

Speaking at a Coral Gold Cup gallops morning at Newbury, which is 30 miles east of Ascot, Henderson said: “We hope the rain arrives swiftly at Ascot. I’ve been stood in it since half past six and I’m drowned in it!”

The Seven Barrows trainer has been dazzled by Constitution Hill’s work at home.

He added: “He is just quite extraordinary. I said to Charlie Morlock [assistant trainer] that the beauty of this horse is he’s so uncomplicated.

The Michael Buckley-owned five-year-old made a phenomenal statement during last season’s Supreme at Cheltenham, and the unbeaten hurdler is expected to be one of the leading lights of the jumping sphere over the next few years.

Earlier on Saturday on the same card, dual Group 1 winner L’Homme Presse is set to begin his campaign in the Gr2 1965 Chase over 2 miles and 5 furlongs.

Venetia Williams’ seven-year-old demonstrated his ability as a top-class staying chaser last term when stepping up to 3m½f to win the Gr1 Brown Advisory at Cheltenham.

Seven rivals are declared including course and distance winner Dashel Drasher and the Paul Nicholls trained recent winner Pic D’Orhy. It looks to be fascinating contest with half the field making the seasonal debuts, but L’ Homme Presse was scintillating over fences last season and his connections will be hoping for another winning seasonal debut this time around.

Gold Cup hero A Plus Tard is one of five entered in Saturday’s Betfair Chase at Haydock — the first Group 1 of the British jumps season.

Owned by Cheveley Park Stud, A Plus Tard was a beaten favourite in the Savills Chase, but then went on to glory when landing the feature of the Cheltenham Festival in March by an impressive 15 lengths.

Having landed this £200,000 contest last year, the Henry de Bromhead-trained eight-year-old is a short-priced 4/10 with the race’s sponsor to repeat the feat.

The Dan Skelton-trained seven-year-old Protektorat is likely to be A Plus Tard’s main rival on Saturday. Winner of last season’s Gr2 Many Clouds Chase at Aintree by 25 lengths, this progressive younger rival has clearly enjoyed the change to chasing.

2020 Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mail and recent Badger Beer winner Frodon are fellow competitors that will ensure a strong pace from the start, but Protektorat showed enough potential when third in last season’s Gold Cup to be a serious contender on Saturday.

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