Shishkin headlines Kempton card as he makes Desert Orchid return

All eyes will be on Shishkin when he makes his eagerly-awaited reappearance in the Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park on Monday.

Nicky Henderson’s charge has been all-conquering in his career so far, both over hurdles and fences. He has been beaten just once in 10 outings under rules, when falling on his second start over timber.

A rare winner for Britain at Cheltenham in March when a 12-length scorer in the Arkle Trophy, he backed that up at Aintree in April.

He has not been seen since, with plans to run in the Tingle Creek shelved as Henderson felt he was not getting the right signs – a decision vindicated when the Joe Donnelly-owned gelding subsequently scoped dirty.

Much was said about his defection from Sandown at the time, something that irked his trainer, but now it is time for the horse to do the talking.

Henderson said: “I’m pleased to get him out. We could have done without all that rain, but there you go. He’ll be here, I hope. Nico (de Boinville) has been riding him a lot and he’s been giving me good vibes – he’s been happy the last week.

“We’re ready to come out. We’ve had to push here to get here a little bit and of course he’s going to come on for it – he hasn’t run since Aintree. It’s a good test with the Tingle Creek winner in there – I didn’t think Paul (Nicholls) was going to let us have a walk round on our own!”

“Personally, I think he ranks at the top (of the two-mile division), but that’s what we’ve got to prove. We’re not going to prove it if we’re 95 per cent – there’s no point doing that.

Nicky Henderson with Shishkin at his Seven Barrows yard
Nicky Henderson with Shishkin at his Seven Barrows yard (David Davies/PA)

“I’m not trying to wrap him up in cotton wool – I’m dying to run him. He’s got to get out there and run as he needs at least two good runs before March. Then we’ve Sandowns and Aintrees and things to do after that.

“He has the potential (to follow Sprinter Sacre and Altior), but he hasn’t done yet.

“He’s out of novice company and now he’s got to do it against the older boys. I think the novices are probably the answer to it, with Willie’s (Mullins) horse Energumene the one I would single out as the most interesting among his opponents (in the two-mile division).

“There’s a whole host of them, Willie holds a very strong hand there. I can’t see that was the real Chacun Pour Soi we were expecting to see in the Tingle Creek, and I don’t think Willie was, either. Paul has got a very strong hand with his lot, too.”

The aforementioned Nicholls provides the obvious threat to Shishkin in the form of the Tingle Creek winner Greaneteen, a horse who also beat Altior at Sandown in April.

The Ditcheat trainer said: “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.

“The Tingle Creek was by far and away his best performance, but he was improving all the time last year and it’s just a matter of getting to know how to ride him, little things. Who knows if there’s more to come, but I hope there is.

“It would be nice to think there’s more to come. Two years ago he won a handicap off a rating of 133 and look where he is now, he just got better and better.

“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.”

Edwardstone in action at Sandown
Edwardstone in action at Sandown (Steven Paston/PA)

Jonjo O’Neill’s Sky Pirate and the Sam Thomas-trained Before Midnight are the other hopefuls.

The other Grade Two on the card is the Ladbrokes Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase, which offers a fine opportunity for Edwardstone to back up his Grade One strike in the Henry VII Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

Trainer Alan King told his website: “Edwardstone produced a terrific performance to win the Henry VIII at Sandown. He has come out of that race great and schooled well last week, and the clock certainly backs up the form as his winning time was four seconds faster than the Tingle Creek.

“It was great for Robert (Abrey) and Ian (Thurtle) to celebrate a Grade One winner out of their own mare, and the Arkle is now Edwardstone’s prime target at Cheltenham in March.”

Solo takes on Edwardstone
Solo takes on Edwardstone (Julian Herbert/PA)

Edwardstone is taken on by three rivals in Do Your Job (Michael Scudamore), Raya Time (Tom George) and Solo (Nicholls).

Nicholls told Betfair: “He is knocking on the door over fences, will enjoy going right-handed at Kempton where he has run well before, and the softer the ground the more he will appreciate it.

“Edwardstone looks the one to beat after his recent success success at Sandown but he did have a hard race there. Although we have a bit to find with him on the form book I wouldn’t be surprised to see Solo outrun his odds.”

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