Shishkin ready to step up in Ascot Chase test

Shishkin is poised to make his eagerly-awaited step up in trip at Ascot on Saturday, with the nine-year-old amongst the seven five-day confirmations for the Betfair Ascot Chase.

Since pulling up when sent off favourite for last year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, Nicky Henderson’s two-time Cheltenham Festival winner has only been seen once, when a well-beaten third in the Tingle Creek before Christmas.

That Sandown disappointment signalled a move up in distance and the son of Sholokhov now gets to test the waters over further, where his chief danger appears to be Joseph O’Brien’s defending champion Fakir D’oudairies.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Shishkin after defeat at Sandown
Shishkin after defeat at Sandown (PA)

A good showing at the weekend could pave the way for a tilt at the Ryanair Chase at Prestbury Park in a month’s time – a race that now has an open feel with Allaho ruled out of his hat-trick bid due to injury.

Although the Seven Barrows handler admits he should have entered Shishkin in the Champion Chase in case this exploratory move ends in disappointment, he is certain the 11-time winner is in need of a longer trip to showcase his best.

“He probably should have been in it (Champion Chase), but I was impressed with Gary Moore’s horse (in the Clarence House) to be fair and Edwardstone looked like he would come on for his race,” said Henderson.

“It does look more open this year, but Shishkin has been racing like a horse who wants further to me and I hope I’m right.”

Shishkin returns to the scene of one of his finest hours at Ascot – a place where he won an all-time classic against Energumene in the 2021 Clarence House Chase.

It was Shishkin’s stamina that helped him see off Willie Mullins’ Champion Chase hero and Henderson believes the writing was on the wall from that day regarding his charge requiring further.

He continued: “It was a tough race and you don’t really like to see horses racing off the bridle for so long the whole time.

“That’s what he’s had to do the last two times. I want to see him going round on the bridle and he’s got to be better for it.”

One slight concern for Henderson ahead of Saturday is the prospect of quick ground, but he is confident the Berkshire track will be able to water sufficiently ahead of the fixture to avoid a repeat of November’s Ascot Hurdle card where Constitution Hill was a non runner on the day of the race.

Trainer Nicky Henderson and Shishkin during a visit to Nicky Henderson’s stables at Seven Barrows in Lambourn
Trainer Nicky Henderson and Shishkin during a visit to Nicky Henderson’s stables at Seven Barrows in Lambourn (David Davies/PA)

“I want to talk to Chris Stickles and we’ll see,” continued Henderson. “It was quick, it was too quick for Constitution Hill that day. I’m sure they are watering, there’s only Newbury that can’t water, so I’m hoping Ascot will have done so.

“It is possible if it was that quick (he would go straight to Cheltenham). He would have to.”

Paul Nicholls is represented by Pic D’Orhy, who looks to extend a three-race winning run and the Peterborough Chase winner could have the chance to confirm Huntingdon form with Alex Hales’ Millers Bank (second) and Kim Bailey’s First Flow (third), with the latter another former Clarence House winner who could take his chance in the Grade One contest.

Musselburgh scorer Minella Drama could step out of handicap company for Donald McCain, while Harriet Graham and Gary Rutherford’s popular 10-year-old Aye Right is another possible for the north.

Other Recent Posts by This Author:

Your first 30 days for just £1