Paul Nicholls is eager to let Greaneteen take on Shishkin in next week’s Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.
The seven-year-old would have to shoulder a Grade One penalty, but that was well earned given his display in the Tingle Creek at Sandown.
Beaten just two lengths in the Champion Chase in March, Nicholls is confident Greaneteen, who will be the mount of Bryony Frost, is still improving.
Should he clash with last season’s Arkle winner Shishkin – who is still not a certain runner given he was under the weather at the time of the Tingle Creek and Nicky Henderson has been rushing to get him ready – punters would be in for a post-Christmas treat.
“Greaneteen is incredibly well, he astonishes me with how he keeps improving physically. He hardly lost a kilo in the Tingle Creek and is obviously at the top of his game,” said Nicholls.
“He’s in good shape, he stayed on strongly at Sandown and he’s definitely going to run. We’re looking forward to seeing if Shishkin turns up. He loves going right-handed, it suits him well. He’s very versatile.
“You’d have thought the other day he had a hard race, but he came out of it bouncing and has been very fresh since. We’re very happy with him and can’t wait to run him.
“Obviously Shishkin had a great season last year and was well placed, and won well at Cheltenham and Aintree but he has to step up now against the big boys.
“He’s obviously very smart but first time out, we’re certainly not afraid of taking him on, anyway.”
Nicholls runs another of his big hopes for the future in Bravemansgame in the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, with the six-year-old unbeaten in his first two races over fences.
Should the rain come, he is also set for a big clash with Lucinda Russell’s Ahoy Senor.
“He is a proper horse and I know he’s stronger and better than last year,” said Nicholls.
“When he was four and running in bumpers you could hardly train him he was that babyish, but now he’s more mature and he’ll keep improving as he gets physically stronger.
“I’d say three miles around Kempton will suit him very well.
“Threeunderthrufive would only run if anything happened to Bravemansgame, he probably won’t run until the end of next month.”
Highlighting some of his other runners over the two days, Nicholls feels former Willie Mullins inmate Real Steel could be dangerous off a handicap mark of 145 in the Play Ladbrokes 1-2-Free On Football Handicap Chase.
“Real Steel runs and has dropped to a nice mark now when you think he was running well in last year’s King George before he bled badly,” said Nicholls.
“He’s had a breathing op which took him a few runs to get his confidence back from, but he’s showing the right signs at home.
“I think there’s more to come from Solo and I think the race on Monday (Ladbrokes Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase) will cut up, so I think he’ll run in that. He likes going right-handed and the more rain we get the better.
“Danny Kirwan runs in the novice handicap chase and I’m very happy with him. We know he needs to go right-handed so we kept him for this.”