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Sublime Shishkin cruises to Arkle success

Shishkin justified his prohibitive odds when taking his winning streak to seven with an easy victory in the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham.

Winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on this card 12 months ago, Shishkin is now unbeaten in four races over fences as he gave trainer Nicky Henderson a seventh Arkle – a race the Seven Barrows trainer has taken with stars such as Sprinter Sacre and Altior.

The 4-9 favourite was always travelling well in the hands of Nico de Boinville, as Allmankind and Captain Guinness made it a true-run race over the two miles.

Shishkin joined the two leaders at the third-last fence, setting sail for home and going on to score by 12 lengths.

Eldorado Allen picked up the pieces for second place close home, just ahead of Captain Guinness and Allmankind.

Shishkin was given a quote of 5-2 for next year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase with Coral and William Hill, while Paddy Power went 6-4.

Henderson said: “We’d always hoped (to win like that), but you never expect. It was strange, it will be all week without the crowds, but it doesn’t make it any easier watching them. Winners here are winners tough and without the crowd they are still special.

“We knew there was going to be plenty of pace, I didn’t know the other horse (Captain Guinness) would take him (Allmankind) on as well. But he’s got a high cruising speed and just sat on their tails.

“He came wide and had plenty of space, but he was impressive the way he came up the hill.

“We’ve had great days here in this race, Sprinter Sacre, then Altior followed him and it’s a shame he’s missing this week, but it’s extraordinary to find another. He looked as good as the other two did in this race today. He’s got a long way to go to match them, but you had to be delighted with what he did today.

“It was a different challenge today. We schooled on Thursday and he nearly hurdles his fences, he’s very quick which frightens you a little. He’s very fast, he’s always looked like a chaser but he’s definitely a two-miler, he’s just a natural.”

He added: “Yesterday was a horrible day (having to rule Altior out of the Champion Chase), the second year running. For the Pughs (owners) it was tragic, having to make that call was no fun at all and you worry about the week starting that way.

Shishkin in full flight over the last
Shishkin in full flight over the last (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We always say we’d settle for one and it’s nice we’ve got one on the board. I don’t know if we can enjoy it, but we can box on.

“Altior has a bacterial infection, he can’t give that to anybody, hopefully we can clear it up. In time for Aintree I don’t know, but he’ll easily be ready for the Celebration Chase. Sandown is probably the likeliest.

“Whether Shishkin runs again, I don’t know, but why not? That was only his fourth run over fences. That was the first big question he was asked and when you see an answer like that you think why not. Aintree is the only option, but it is a short break this year.”

Arkle promises a cracker as ‘big three’ all stand ground

The big three – Shishkin, Energumene and Allmankind – have all stood their ground in the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy for what promises to be one of the races of the week at Cheltenham.

Twelve horses were left in following the confirmation stage – but all eyes will be on the trio, who are unbeaten over fences.

Shishkin, last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, flies the flag for Nicky Henderson. The seven-year-old has looked a natural over fences, with two impressive victories at Kempton and one at Doncaster.

Energumene, trained by Willie Mullins, has been just as convincing in Ireland – chalking up a hat-trick which culminated in the Irish version of the Arkle at Leopardstown last month.

Dan Skelton’s Allmankind has done everything asked of him so far too, with Grade One success at Sandown sandwiched by two wins at Warwick.

Mullins also has Blackbow and Franco De Port in the reckoning for Tuesday, while Felix Desjy could be Denise Foster’s first Festival runner since she took over the licence from Gordon Elliott following his suspension.

Dual Grade One winner Appreciate It heads 18 confirmations for the opening race of the four-day Festival, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Mullins’ charge has been clear ante-post favourite after winning all the his three starts over the smaller obstacles – including the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice and the Chanelle Pharma Novice, both at Leopardstown. He was runner-up in last year’s Champion Bumper.

Mullins has four other possibles in Blue Lord, Galopin Des Champs, Ganapathi and M C Muldoon.

Ballyadam, who was moved from Elliott’s stables last week by owners Cheveley Park Stud, is one three for Henry de Bromhead. Grade One scorer Bob Olinger and Irascible are the County Waterford trainer’s other possible representatives.

Metier is the main British hope in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Metier is the main British hope in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Leading the home challenge is the Harry Fry-trained Metier, winner of the Tolworth Hurdle, and Betfair Hurdle victor Soaring Glory from Jonjo O’Neill’s stable.

The Skeltons have a leading fancy in Roksana in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle, for which 12 stood their ground.

Roksana was handed this prize two years ago after Benie Des Dieux came down at the last. Fourth to Honeysuckle 12 months ago, she also holds an entry in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.

Concertista, from the Mullins stable, looks a formidable rival. The seven-year-old landed the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle here in 2020 and has won two graded races this season.

Great White Shark and My Sister Sarah are the two other Mullins possibles. The Foster-trained Black Tears and Henderson’s pair Dame De Compagnie and Floressa are also in the mix.

Royale Pagaille tops 16 remaining in the Sam Vestey National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase, following the six-day stage.

The Venetia Williams-trained seven-year-old completed a hat-trick in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock. He also holds entries in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase and the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup.

David Pipe has confirmed Reynoldstown Chase winner Remastered – while other interesting contenders include the former Elliott-trained Galvin, now with Ian Ferguson, and Next Destination from the Nicholls yard.

Remastered remains in two races at Cheltenham on Tuesday
Remastered remains in two races at Cheltenham on Tuesday (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Remastered is also one of 31 still in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Nick Mitchell’s Lieutenant Rocco, the Foster-trained Escaria Ten and Happygolucky, from Kim Bailey’s yard, are among those prominent in the ante-post market.

Gary Moore’s Nassalam and the Mullins-trained Youmdor head the weights, with 28 remaining in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

Mullins supplies Saint Sam, while the Nicholls-trained Houx Gris and Joseph O’Brien’s Busselton are among others high in the betting.