Shishkin, Envoi Allen and Monkfish headline the entries for the novice chase events at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin was victorious in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the 2020 Festival and has made a seamless transition to fences this term, winning each of his two starts.
He hacked up in the Grade Two Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton over Christmas and leads the way as 34 horses have been entered for the Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase on the first day of the showpiece meeting.
Henderson has also given Allart and Fusil Raffles the option, while leading Irish-trained contenders include Energumene, who has impressed in both his outings over fences and is one of six contenders for Willie Mullins along with Grade One scorer Franco de Port, Unexcepted and Klassical Dream, winner of the 2019 Supreme.
The unbeaten Envoi Allen is entered in the Arkle, but he is the hot favourite for the Marsh Novices’ Chase as he seeks a third Festival win.
Gordon Elliott’s charge landed the 2019 Champion Bumper before adding last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and has his three chases in style.
Energumene and Allart are also doubly entered while the race is one of five Cheltenham options for Chatham Street Lad, who already has a big Cheltenham success on his CV this season having swept aside seasoned opposition to take the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup for Mick Winters in December.
Dan Skelton’s Grade One winner Shan Blue and French entry Saint Turgeon, who is trained by Davide Satalia, also feature among 47 contenders.
Monkfish won the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle last term and tops 53 entries for the Festival Novices’ Chase, the extended three-mile event previously known as the RSA.
Mullins’ runner was a Grade One winner at Leopardstown last month and is one of four for his trainer, with fellow top-level winner Colreevy also in the mix.
The Paul Nolan-trained Latest Exhibition was beaten by Monkfish at last year’s Festival and at Leopardstown, but he could have another pop at his old adversary, with Paul Nicholls’ Next Destination and The Big Breakaway from Colin Tizzard’s yard the leading home-trained hopes at this stage.