no deal | 

Bumper cash offer from Irish bookie not enough to set-up dream Honeysuckle showdown

Nicky Henderson "declined all the temptations" of heading to next week's Punchestown Festival with Constitution Hill

Rachael Blackmore celebrates on Honeysuckle after winning the Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty

Kevin Palmer

Racing fans have been denied a dream showdown between Honeysuckle and Constitution Hill at this month's Punchestown Festival, despite a £100k bounty being offered up by bookies Paddy Power.

A battle between the unbeaten Honeysuckle and Constitution Hill has been eagerly awaited after the duo turned on the style to win in impressive fashion at the Cheltenham Festival last month.

Yet trainer Nicky Henderson "declined all the temptations" of heading to next week's Punchestown Festival with Constitution Hill, even after Paddy Power's offer to hand connections of Constitution Hill the £100k bonus if they beat Honeysuckle on home soil.

Irish bookie Paddy Power appears to have set the ultimate ‘honey trap’ after connections of star mare Honeysuckle suggested they might pull the plug on a blockbuster duel between the unbeaten mare and Constitution Hill at the Punchestown Festival.

Yet Henderson has confirmed he will not take the bait, as he is holding back his stable star for a meeting with Honeysuckle at a later date.

Discussions over the weekend with owner Michael Buckley confirmed the decision to leave the five-year-old, which has had just four career starts, off for the rest of the season, though, with Henderson confident that he will be a "better horse" next season.

"We've been umming and aahing for a good fortnight now. It was very tempting," said Henderson on Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast. "But he is a big, quite raw five-year-old who has only had three races in his life and his future is so big.

"And believe it or not, I think he can be a better horse and stronger horse in a year’s time. I’d just rather finish on a good note with everything in front of him. There’s all the time in the world to meet Honeysuckle and hopefully it will be in March (at Cheltenham).

"He will definitely stay over hurdles and he can have a proper campaign next season. To go over there (Ireland) and do this against what is undoubtedly a very good mare, it’s not so much that we’re frightened of her, it’s just doing something that wasn’t really in Constitution Hill’s interest and to his benefit.

"I think the field and a nice summer out is of more benefit and we’ll just try to build up his frame a little bit more. We’ve declined all the temptations."

The decision will not come as a surprise to Ruby Walsh, with the legendary jockey suggesting we might have to wait until next year's Cheltenham Festival to see this duel.

"I think there’s very little reward for Constitution Hill taking on Honeysuckle right now," Walsh told the From The Horse's Mouth podcast.

"Other than the spectacle, there isn’t much for the Constitution Hill camp to gain. The obvious benefit is the £125,000 prize pot, which is a good sum of money, but I doubt Michael Buckley needs that cash right now.

"The risk v reward doesn’t make sense to me. When Punchestown is over, Constitution Hill can never run in a Novice Hurdle again. He can run in the Novice Chase but not the Novice Hurdle.

"It makes more sense to send him to Punchestown, win, make it four wins from four. He can then mature and grow throughout the summer and maybe come back a better horse when he comes back next year to take on Honeysuckle."

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