Down Hill

Constitution Hill. The best hurdler in the world. The Champion Hurdle. Two weeks out. Routine gallop.

As we learn over and over or, I guess, we’re reminded over and over, there is nothing routine when it comes to horses. Undefeated in eight starts, the British banker, a horse so good that just a few weeks ago talk was about if Cheltenham’s opening day feature would draw three, four, five horses. Constitution Hill trailed well behind two stablemates at Kempton’s all-weather track Tuesday morning. Punters scurried. Markets stopped. Trainers checked entries. Owners studied supplemental fees. A dirty scope to blame. Or taking the blame.

Trainer Nicky Henderson and his team now embark on two weeks (if it actually plays out that far) of stress and strategy. Antibiotics. Temperature. Another scope Friday. Surely, he won’t run. Will he? I would doubt it. What a blow to Henderson and his team. A blow to the Festival.

“Horses are like a stick of butter. They’re never the same.” Was that Sheppard? Frankel? Jerkens? Sounds like Sheppard. I think Frankel said, “Berries today. Jam tomorrow.” Or was it Jerkens? “Everything you do with a horse is a calculated risk.” Now, that was definitely Jerkens.

Could have been Henderson.