Nico de Boinville was left purring at the thought of a Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup bid with Shishkin after picking the perfect time to make his return to the winner’s enclosure.
Nicky Henderson’s stable number one broke his collarbone in a fall at Doncaster over the Christmas period and after an initial quick-fire return to the saddle was halted in mid-January, he is now back amongst the riding ranks after a second comeback at Ludlow on Wednesday.
He was out of luck in his first forays back in the saddle, finishing second in the bumper at Kempton on Friday and also in the Newbury opener on Saturday.
However, his fortunes changed on the mount that mattered most on Saturday afternoon, as Shishkin passed his Betfair Denman Chase assignment to firmly enter the Gold Cup picture.
“I’m delighted to be back and it’s our local track. It’s great to be back in the plate and doing my job,” said De Boinville.
“Shishkin was probably going half a stride slower than he ideally wants and on better ground I think we will see an improvement. That will bring him on as well, so we’re looking forward to the Gold Cup – he’s a dual winner round Cheltenham (at the Festival).
“He always finishes strongly and that is why I was convinced in the King George that we were always going to maintain that pace – he keeps finding.
“He’s in there with a solid each-way chance and if he runs there to his best I think we’re right in the mix. I think it’s a very open Gold Cup if you take out Galopin Des Champs, so we will see what we can do.”
De Boinville has endured a somewhat luckless season aboard Shishkin to date, with the 10-year-old refusing to start in his scheduled comeback at Ascot and then unseating the 34-year-old in cruel fashion with the King George at his mercy.
However, the Shishkin that had dazzled in his novice days was back on display at Newbury and De Boinville thought he was never likely to repeat his Ascot antics at the start.
“He was fantastic and in such good humour today. He was never going to think about not starting,” he said.
“I was just trying to keep him sweet and happy, but he was wanting to go forward and jump into the bridle.
“He couldn’t wait to get out there and down to the start and has been in really good order at home. He’s none the worse for Kempton anyway.”
Meanwhile, Henderson was full of praise for his loyal Seven Barrows pilot after the duo’s day got even better with Iberico Lord’s thrilling Betfair Hurdle success.
De Boinville has always been someone Henderson can depend on when the big occasion comes along and he was at his ice-cool best when delivering JP McManus’ Greatwood Hurdle winner to perfection to pick up their second big success of the season over the smaller obstacles.
“It’s great to have Nico back and him and James (Bowen) are a good team,” said Henderson.
“He has been off a while and he tried to come back and it didn’t work, now he’s come back and won the two races we needed to win today.
“One we had to win and one we wanted to win. We had to win the first one, whereas the Betfair Hurdle is a very special race at Newbury.”
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