Tag Archive for: Nico De Boinville

Shishkin just gets the better of Energumene in epic Clarence House

Shishkin got up in the final few strides to deny Energumene in a pulsating renewal of the SBK Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

Both horses brought unbeaten records over fences to the table in the Grade One showpiece, with Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin the marginal favourite at 5-6 under Nico de Boinville.

The Willie Mullins-trained Energumene was sent off at 5-4 in the hands of Paul Townend and travelled and fenced fluently in the lead for much of the way.

It was not an easy watch for Shishkin’s supporters, with De Boinville having to get lower in the saddle at various stages of the two-mile-one-furlong journey.

The writing appeared to be on the wall for favourite-backers in the home straight, with Energumene seemingly still full of running under a motionless Townend while Shishkin – who made one fairly serious mistake and was not fluent at another fence – was being rousted along.

Energumene still appeared the most likely winner as he held a narrow advantage jumping the last, but Shishkin’s trademark turbo kicked in on the run-in to prevail by a length.

The Joe Donnelly-owned Shishkin was given a huge reception as he returned to the winner’s enclosure, and Henderson said: “It was built up and it produced. They are two great horses.

“A race like that goes back to the Grundy and Bustino day (1975 King George And Queen Elizabeth Stakes) and he (Shishkin) only lives about four boxes from where Grundy did. It was important, it was a great weekend for racing actually.

Nico de Boinville after steering Shishkin to victory
Nico de Boinville after steering Shishkin to victory (Adam Davy/PA)

“They (Townend and De Boinville) said to each other going down the hill, ‘we are flat to the boards’. It had to be that, there was no point hiding. Energumene was going to set a good gallop and we had to keep in touch.

“There were moments it looked as if we weren’t going as well but he stays very well, he possibly does drift a little bit.

“The great thing is they’ve both come home safe and sound. It was a great race. Willie and the guys are all great mates.

“There’s going to be rematch. I always said I hope it’s a good race today because then it won’t ruin the Champion Chase and they will be back to fight it out together.

“Willie and I have both got jobs to do, we’ve got to get them back from a hard race today but there’s lots of time.

He added: “This is a battle, not the war. The big day is in March and there’s nothing between them. I’m pretty sure if we can both get them there together, it’s going to be a lot of fun. Fascinating.

“It’s special when you get that kind of build up, and it became very important – Nico said it gave him the best moment of his riding career so far, which says something when you’ve ridden Gold Cup winners and things like that.

“Today was round one and Willie and I have got to go home and get ready for March – that is going to be round two.

“It (Champion Chase) is no worse a race for what happened today. We won today, which obviously I’m thrilled about, but they went down fighting tooth and nail. It looked as though they had us on the ropes, but we got back.

Nicky Henderson was unsurprisingly thrilled by Shishkin's victory
Nicky Henderson was unsurprisingly thrilled by Shishkin’s victory (Steven Paston/PA)

“Now we’ll go on to March, hopefully everything goes right and they’ll meet again and it will be another thriller.

“I couldn’t have him much better than he was today. Kempton brought him on nicely after the hiccup we had before Christmas.

“We weren’t going to duck today as I wanted the time between now and Cheltenham, rather than wait for the Game Spirit (at Newbury next month).

“I’ve now got time to freshen up and get ready for what will be another massive race.

“Fair play to Willie, who is an enormous mate and Nico and Paul are as well. We’ll go on and hope we can produce what will be another humdinger.”

Energumene lost little in defeat
Energumene lost little in defeat (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mullins was gracious in defeat, saying: “We have no excuses. We ran a cracker, jumped well and did everything right.

“Maybe Shishkin didn’t jump as well as we did and whether there is more improvement in him, I don’t know. I was watching my own horse, but Shishkin made two mistakes I think, so that would leave you to think we have a bit to go yet before we beat him. Shishkin is not too bad around Cheltenham You would have to think we are going to find it hard.

“He got in tight, but they are two-mile chasers meeting fences on a stride. I thought we jumped well enough, unless he was completely electric… but then if Shishkin jumped every fence as well as we did, the chances are he’d have beaten us easier, you know?”

Henderson insists Dusart ‘has a lot to learn’ after chase debut win

Nicky Henderson admitted Dusart “still has a lot to learn” after being made to pull out all the stops to make a successful chasing debut at Leicester.

An impressive winner on his hurdling bow at Newbury in November of last season, the seven-year-old did not run again until finishing third in a Grade One event at Aintree’s Grand National meeting in April.

Faced with just two rivals, Dusart was 2-7 favourite to make a winning return from another lengthy absence in the Pertemps Network Novices’ Chase, but his victory was far from straightforward.

After jumping left at the handful of fences that were not omitted due to low sun, Henderson’s charge had mastered Barnaviddaun when that rival made a jolting error and unseated his rider three fences from home.

Dusart was then challenged and briefly passed by Sail Away between the final two obstacles, before being galvanised by Nico de Boinville and eventually winning the argument by five lengths.

Henderson said: “It was only the third run of any description in his life and it was a nice race to find, as it was only put on last Saturday – I wasn’t intending to come here at all.

“It was always going to be messy and then it got even messier when they took all the fences out. The one thing I didn’t expect was for him to jump left. He has never suggested he would do that.

“He was green and it looked like he was going to get completely outgalloped for a moment. He probably blew up and then found his second wind.

“Nico had to wake him up to do it, but it’s been a long time since Aintree and he still has a lot to learn. He’ll heave learnt a lot today, I’m sure.”

Nicky Henderson believes there is a lot to look forward to with Dusart
Nicky Henderson believes there is a lot to look forward to with Dusart (Nigel French/PA)

Coral make Dusart a 25-1 shot for both the Turners Novices’ Chase and the longer Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, but Henderson is in no rush to make future plans.

“You’re obviously going to go left-handed next time and the good thing is all the races in the spring are left-handed,” he added.

“I’m not making any predictions on where he’s going, but there are a lot of good races in the spring that are that way round at places like Newbury, Cheltenham and Aintree.

“We probably always didn’t think he’d go to Cheltenham and he’s not going to go on the back of that whatever happens. He’s got to get out there and do it again and again.

“I think he’s got to learn more about life. At Newbury he won on the bridle and he didn’t know what had happened to him when he went round Aintree over two miles – they ran him off his feet!

“Today, he’s gone up to two-miles-six on his debut over fences, so it’s been a pretty unconventional route to say the least.

“He did have a pretty nasty accident in the middle of last season and he was doing a Shishkin on me earlier this year – I couldn’t get him right, his trach washes were wrong and we had to wait.

“He is for the future and you’d like to stay small for his next run.

“He’s got plenty of ability, we needn’t worry about that.”

Maskada (right) claimed Listed honours at Leicester
Maskada (right) claimed Listed honours at Leicester (Mike Egerton/PA)

The Stuart Edmunds-trained Maskada (100-30) upset odds-on favourite Zambella in the Pertemps Network Mares’ Chase.

Zambella was sent on her way as a 4-11 chance to notch her sixth win at Listed level and second in this race, but Maskada proved a length and a half too strong in the hands of Ciaran Gethings.

Edmunds said: “She’d got placed black type and it’s nice to go and win one.

“Realistically we came here thinking Zambella needed to underperform to win, but she jumped great – her jumping has come on leaps and bounds in her last three runs.

“We’ll probably go to Huntingdon at the end of the month for another Listed race. We’ll probably meet Zambella again and it’s over two and a half miles, but the way she’s galloped through the line having not jumped the last well today would suggest she should stay.”

Constitution Hill produces ‘special’ Tolworth performance

Constitution Hill lived up to his tall reputation with a brilliant performance to land the odds in the Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown.

Sent off the 2-5 favourite for the two-mile Grade One contest after making a striking winning debut over the same course and distance five weeks ago, the Nicky Henderson-trained five-year-old put in a top-class display.

However, Henderson was not at the track to see his sixth winner of the race as he is in self-isolation at home after testing positive for Covid-19.

Conditions may have been much heavier than on his debut, but Constitution Hill coped admirably with the heavy ground under a confident ride by Nico de Boinville.

Jetoile made the running until the second-last flight, where Constitution Hill took over and was soon in command. Clear at the last, the Michael Buckley-owned winner went on to score by 12 lengths from the game Jetoile.

Constitution Hill was cut to 9-4 from 7-2 with Betfair and 2-1 from 7-2 with Coral for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival – where he looks set to clash with equally-exciting stablemate Jonbon.

De Boinville said: “This is some horse, I couldn’t believe when I looked round how far clear I was. That was bottomless ground, but he’s made light work of it. He has just gone through it so easily and it was just a case of get him to the line.

“I was very relaxed throughout the race – he is very straightforward and he is asleep most of the time. He is simply a relaxed individual.

“He’s such a likeable horse, he’s so easy, and I believe there’s more to come. He’s very, very straightforward.

“We knew he was good from what he was doing at home, but it’s always nice to see it translate to the track and now he’s backed it (debut) up.

“It was a great performance, he’s push button – he’s a jockey’s dream.

“He was fantastic there today. I was blown away by that – that was special.”

On a showdown with Jonbon, De Boinville said: “I’m sure they’ll meet at Cheltenham, all being well, and that will be a great match up. They’re very different horses, with very different dispositions, but it’s exciting and it’s exciting for the yard.

“He had an education through the race and I’m not worried he hasn’t been tested. He is very exciting and it is exciting to have some very good horses in the yard.”

For Henderson it was relief all round, as he watched on from his Seven Barrows base in Lambourn.

“Watching it from home is not like being there. It is worse. I would rather drive to Newcastle and watch it live than sat here. Sat here on my own, talking to myself, it is harder at home than watching it on a racecourse,” he said.

“I have got covid, but that is the best medicine you can get in the world. That would kill anything.”

He went on: “He was staggering. We had no idea about the ground – it was proper Sandown heavy ground. When he won there before it was good to soft, but pretty soft all the same.

“I just had a long chat with Barry Geraghty, who was the person who told me to buy him and he is a good friend of Michael’s as well and it is thanks to Barry really. You just have to say that was a staggering performance in any ground.

“I talked to Barry and Nico and we are pretty sure he is a two-miler. You are not going to run him on fast ground – and at Cheltenham you are not going to get fast ground. It never does these days.

“We are in a very lucky situation that we have him and Jonbon at the moment.

“In any year, you’d be lucky enough to have one of them. They are very, very, very high class.”

Constitution Hill ploughs through the mud to win the Tolworth Hurdle
Constitution Hill ploughs through the mud to win the Tolworth Hurdle (Steven Paston/PA)

Comparing the characteristics of his emerging superstars, Henderson said: “Jonbon is a seriously good horse – a seriously good horse – no mistaking that one whatsoever. This one must be as good as any, as well.

“Constitution Hill is about the most laid-back horse I have ever come across. He is asleep. He is asleep in his box, he is asleep in his walk, he’ll sleep in a trot and asleep in a canter. Then you lob along and then you just pull it out and you push a button and we go.

“Jonbon is the opposite. He is a bit hyper. We took him to Newbury for a racecourse canter. In the paddock he is sweating and on his toes and that’s him.

“They are absolutely completely and utterly different characters. Certainly Cheltenham isn’t going to faze Constitution Hill. Cheltenham won’t faze Jonbon, because we will have protected him from that. We have done with earplugs and things like that, and it is the first race, which always helps.”

Jonbon looks another potential star for Nicky Henderson
Jonbon looks another potential star for Nicky Henderson (Steven Paston/PA)

He went on: “At the moment, they both look like two-milers and if we had any strength this year, it would be in the novice hurdlers. And there are a few more, to be fair. I Am Maximus wasn’t bad the other day, although he got beat – and he is going to be a good horse. There is Balco Coastal and Broomfield Burg and all sorts of others lurking around in there.

“Jonbon we are toying with either the Rossington Main at Haydock or the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown – I’d like to get another run into Jonbon.

“Whether we get another run into Constitution Hill – I just said to Nico, there are only two questions: ‘Does he need any more than two miles?’ ‘No’.
‘Does he need to run again’ ‘Not necessarily’.

“They were competitive races – he hasn’t had big fields. Jonbon will run again. You could go as far as the Dovecote, but those are the only three options you can come up with.

“Does this horse need to do it again? He’s only had one point-to-point, which he actually got beat in, and two hurdle races which have turned out to be a bit of a doddle – but that was a Grade One. You can’t ask him to do any more.

“The depth wasn’t great, but I can’t stick him the Betfair Hurdle because he hasn’t had three runs. If you run him in the Rossington Main, the Contenders or the Dovecote, you are only going to get four or five runners, whatever happens. You are not going to get a full field.

“Do you ever not see Willie Mullins’ horses not be in the first three all the way round in a beginners’ hurdle, novice hurdle, maiden hurdle, any other hurdle? They just go round in front, don’t they?

“I really promise you, you run Jonbon and say ‘this is the real deal’ and you run that one today and you have to say ‘that was the real deal’.

“If you have got two, you are just very, very, very lucky. And don’t forget, there is a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and Cheltenham.

“To get from now in January, February to March – you have eight and a half weeks to go, everybody who trains racehorses knows that nine weeks is a very long time in a horse’s career and life and a million things can go wrong. So you probably need two. They have got to get there and we are very lucky. We have a sweat, because my job is to get them both there.

“Is there a possibility they split up? I don’t know. It is hard to tell.

“If you walked into Seven Barrows tomorrow morning, I would be surprised if you didn’t get a 50-50. There are 70 odd people and they are split.

“They are not just hurdlers – these are chasers for the future, their life is in front of them. The Supreme is not what they were bought for, they were both bought as steeplechasers.”

De Boinville confident Hill can reach the summit

Nico de Boinville has full belief that Constitution Hill can handle the step up to Grade One company on just his second start in Saturday’s Unibet Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.

A startlingly impressive winner on his hurdling debut over the same course and distance he faces this weekend, the five-year-old is notoriously laid back at home.

While Nicky Henderson had been slightly concerned regarding his ability prior to his debut given how little he showed on the gallops, De Boinville said his relaxed nature but impressive turn of foot makes him a joy to ride.

“I was delighted with him (on debut), not many finish up that hill at Sandown like that on that ground,” De Boinville told Unibet.

“I was walking down the horse walk on him and he was so laid back, I was on the buckle end yet he was like riding a pony, even down at the start he was having a good look around.

“It wasn’t until I pulled him out going to the last that he really came alive. They are ideal to ride when they are like that.”

He went on: “I think so (can handle step up to a Grade One). He seems very laid back and takes it all in his stride.

“We’ll see how we go, obviously it will be a lot hotter than last time but the way he demolished them the other day was very impressive and they weren’t mugs in behind him either.

“We’re working our way through our novices slowly but surely but he’s bang there.”

Henderson also houses current Supreme Novices’ Hurdle ante-post favourite Jonbon.

Shishkin oozes class with faultless Kempton return

Shishkin quashed all worries about his well-being when running out a hugely impressive winner of the Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park.

Making a later than expected return to action, Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old stamped a huge claim to be crowned the best two-mile chaser in training.

Henderson had wanted to run his stable star in Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, but in the week leading up to that the Seven Barrows trainer felt the Arkle winner needed a bit longer to get up to full speed.

Yet again Henderson’s judgement proved spot on, and while he was given a late scare by the Kempton ground turning testing, he had a smile from ear to ear after the race.

It was far from a penalty kick for Shishkin on paper, with Tingle Creek hero Greaneteen in the field as well as Grand Annual winner Sky Pirate.

And while Shishkin did briefly need to be pushed along by Nico de Boinville just before the turn into the straight, he soon came back on the bridle.

Bryony Frost made her bid on Greaneteen – but Shishkin breezed past the multiple Grade One winner as if he was stood still, albeit in receipt of 3lb.

De Boinville kept the 4-9 favourite up to his work between the last two fences and he powered away to win by 10 lengths.

Coral make Shishkin their 5-4 favourite (from 7-4) for the Champion Chase, with Betfair a fraction bigger at 6-4.

Henderson said: “It is a relief, but it’s more than that – I am genuinely thrilled with him.

“I was nervous we weren’t really there, but we had to come out. When I looked at the ground yesterday I thought ‘should we come out and wait for the Clarence House’. Now it’s over and it’s great to see him back.

“He was in a bad place for three weeks, which is why he didn’t run in the Tingle Creek. Then his trachea wash backed it up – that he was wrong. It wasn’t the most popular decision, but it was the right decision.

“We’ve just got back in time for this. The temptation was to wait for the Clarence House as it gave us another couple of weeks, but I was pretty keen to get out here and get a run into him.

“He’s not flashy at home, but Nico came in three or four times last week and said he felt good and he’s got to be the judge.

“It’s great that it’s over as he’s proved one thing – he’s as good as ever, he still is what he promised to be. Class is everything and the way he crosses fences is extraordinary.”

Nico de Boinville celebrates on top of Shishkin
Nico de Boinville celebrates on top of Shishkin (Steven Paston/PA)

On future plans, he added: “I’d like to have another run (before Cheltenham). The trouble is the Clarence House comes up quickly and the Game Spirit comes quite close to Cheltenham and you probably haven’t got a lot in between.

“He didn’t run in the Tingle Creek because he was all wrong – he was as flat as a pancake. I had no worries about missing Sandown at all – he wasn’t right and the horse comes first.

“If I’d run him in the Tingle Creek I’d have wrecked him, but as you can see he’s back now and we can push on and go forward and look forward to what’s in front of us.”

De Boinville praised Henderson’s patience.

He said: “The boss and everyone at home have been very patient with him and the patience has paid off. The boss made me understand if we were going to get beaten it was possibly going to be today just because we didn’t quite know where he was.

“I think he has allayed all our fears and it was nice to see him do that and just get back on the track and get a nice blow into him, so on we go.

“Literally in the last couple of weeks his bits of work have suddenly turned a corner. We felt he was in too good an order so we had to come here and take our chance. It was great to see him do that today. It was the same as normal (coming to the track today). I just had to try not to get too excited and do my job.”

Paul Nicholls felt the ground was simply too soft for Greaneteen.

He said: “Bryony said he just hated the ground – end of story. She said ‘I don’t need to say anything else’. We were going to go to Ascot for the Clarence House, but she said ‘leave him to the spring ground’.

“We will perhaps go to the Game Spirit, then the Champion Chase, then Sandown (Celebration Chase). The 3lb he was giving away made no difference and you have got to run in these type of races.

“I thought last week the ground was going to be decent like it was, then all this rain came and it has gone soft and that is the first time he has run on ground like that for a while.

“He has run a super race. I’d say watching all the horses I’ve seen, that (Shishkin) will win the Champion Chase. That will be the one to beat in the Champion Chase without shadow of a doubt.

“We will go there (Champion Chase) as you never know what will happen. Two miles is his trip as he has got plenty of boot. If we can go back to Sandown at the end of the season and get back there next season then that is good enough.

“Two years ago he won off 132 at Ascot and look where he is now so he has done really well. He will have a break now and he will probably go to the Game Spirit.”

Nico de Boinville planning swift return after gallops fall

Nico de Boinville expects to be back riding early next week.

Nicky Henderson’s stable jockey suffered a schooling fall on Thursday morning and it was initially thought he had broken ribs.

However, De Boinville reports the injury is not as bad as first feared and while he will miss the big meeting at Newbury this weekend, he has already been back in the saddle on the gallops.

He told his Unibet blog: “As you are probably aware, I had a fall while schooling on Thursday morning.

“I obviously felt sore afterwards, but it was much better later in the day, so much so that I rode two bits of work this morning.

“I felt good, though I have decided to give this weekend a miss, but I expect to be back riding at the start of next week.”

Nico de Boinville facing injury absence after gallops fall

Nico de Boinville faces a spell on the sidelines and will miss the ride aboard the exciting Jonbon at Newbury on Friday after suffering a fall at Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard on Thursday morning.

The rider was due to partner the brother of Douvan in the Play Ladbrokes 5-A-Side On Football “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle, but was taken to hospital with suspected broken ribs.

Aidan Coleman will now partner the JP McManus-owned five-year-old in the extended two-mile contest.

Henderson gave an update at lunchtime on Thursday and was still waiting to hear the severity of De Boinville’s injuries.

Henderson said: “Unfortunately, horses have falls when they are jumping fences.

“We have just had a message to say that Nico has been into the hospital, but he has now left that hospital. Nico has been in there since half past eight and still not been seen. He has given up waiting.

“We are pretty sure he has broken ribs. He went to Swindon Hospital and hasn’t been seen for almost four hours. If you are walking, I’m afraid that is what happens – you are better off going in there and lying down on the floor!

“It is cruel before a weekend like this, which is pretty important.”

Jonbon will now be ridden by Aidan Coleman on Friday
Jonbon will now be ridden by Aidan Coleman on Friday (Adam Davy/PA)

Henderson added: “I’m afraid it happens. The timing is horrible, and we are just going to have to juggle everything around.

“Aidan Coleman will ride Jonbon in the two-mile maiden hurdle. James Bowen will ride Mister Coffey in the novice handicap chase and Daryl Jacob will be on Cascova in that, while James will also be on Morning Vicar in the handicap chase and On The Blindside in the Long Distance Hurdle. He also takes over on Kincardine in the novice hurdle.

“James is riding extremely well and deserves his chance, but even he would agree, he would not want that chance under these circumstances.”

Buzz light years in front at Ascot

Buzz delighted the Ascot crowd as he easily accounted for a classy field in the Coral Hurdle.

Sent off the even-money favourite, the Nicky Henderson-trained Buzz was last seen winning the Cesarewitch on the Flat at Newmarket last month and he made a seamless switch back to the winter game in this Grade Two event.

Defending champion Song For Someone set out to make all, bowling along nicely in front for Aidan Coleman as Nico de Boinville kept his mount under wraps for most of the extended two-mile-three-furlong trip.

Buzz was clearly travelling best of all at the top of the straight and while his rivals were hard at work after jumping two out, he was pulling double in the hands of De Boinville.

The seven-year-old needed only the slightest of encouragement to push on and win by three and a half lengths from the gutsy Song For Someone, who was conceding 6lb to the winner.

Guard Your Dreams kept on for third, with Goshen only fourth.

Henderson said: “His jumping was amazing, that was Champion Hurdle-standard jumping.

“He was so quick from the get go, we always knew there was going to be a pretty strong gallop – Goshen didn’t do quite what we expected him to do, but even so they went a good gallop. He never missed a jump.

“I think we’ve got to try going up (in trip). Nobody knows if he’ll stay, all we know is he loves soft ground so we’re not going to be worried about that. He’s perfectly happy on this, which is probably the same as what Newmarket was.”

Betfair cut Buzz to 8-1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle, and the Seven Barrows trainer added: “The idea was always to try him at three, you can always come back.

“I think if you never ask the question…we’ll see what Nico says, he might say ‘that’s madness!’, but I can’t see him coming back and being a two-mile Champion Hurdler.”

There was extra joy for connections, as Buzz runs in the colours of the Thurloe For Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, with 25 per cent of the share of the horse’s prize-money for the owners donated to the charity.

James Stafford of Thurloe Thoroughbreds said: “On Tuesday we will hand over a cheque for £54,000, hopefully racing has done some good for the cancer charity.”

Double delight for Henderson and De Boinville at Ascot

Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville enjoyed an Ascot double as Captain Morgs and Tweed Skirt obliged to send the yard into a big weekend of racing in good form.

Captain Morgs capitalised on his course and distance form to take the two-mile Garden For All Seasons Handicap Hurdle as the 7-4 favourite, with De Boinville taking full advantage of the final-fence error made by Jonjo O’Neill’s runner-up Garry Clermont.

As O’Neill’s bay jinked left at the last obstacle, Captain Morgs instantly surged forward to fill the gap and then kept on to triumph by three-quarters of a length.

“He’s been in very good form and we wanted to come back to two (miles),” said Henderson, whose Cesarewitch winner Buzz is favourite for the Coral Hurdle on day two of the Ascot meeting.

“A very strong run two like that, he finished well and he’s won it nicely.

“It was a great ride though, he’s crept round the inner there and he was in a bit of trouble turning in but he sat and waited and just let the horse pick himself up – and he did.”

Of his race-winning manoeuvre at the last, De Boinville said: “You can call it good fortune and a bit of luck.

“I was coming with a wet sail and the second horse just had a look at the last and made a mistake.

“I got a really nice, clean jump at the last, he was just getting going from the second-last to the last and he’s run all the way to the line.”

Tweed Skirt kick-started a double for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville
Tweed Skirt kick-started a double for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville (Simon Marper/PA)

The Henderson-De Boinville axis was also to the fore in the Ascot Fan Pass “Introductory” Hurdle as Tweed Skirt got the better of Olly Murphy’s 2-7 favourite Go Dante.

The pair faced only one rival with Mark Gillard’s Blueblood making up a small field of three, and it was Henderson’s filly who took the initiative when making all to prevail by two and a half lengths at 11-4.

Murphy was not without a winner on the card, however, as Doctor Ken obliged as the 4-7 favourite in the Ascot Shop “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle.

A bumper winner who was third in respectable company on his hurdling debut, the gelding was a tough half-length victor under Aidan Coleman and is a horse Murphy regards as a promising future chasing prospect.

“He’s a big, raw individual that will improve from getting a tow into a race, but he’s a horse we’ve always liked. He’ll be a lovely horse next year so whatever he does this year will be a bonus,” he said.

“He’s got a lovely way of going, he races in the correct way and he’ll make a lovely chaser next year and acquit himself well over hurdles this year.”

He added: “There was no pace at all so there was no point in dropping him in. It’s a good start, he’s a lovely horse and he’s got a great mind on him. It wouldn’t bother me stepping up in class and it certainly wouldn’t bother him, I will half-mind him, but he may have a run in a good race somewhere.

“I love this lad, it took him three goes to win a bumper, but you can see why looking at him. He’s a horse that’s going to win a lot of races.”

Charlie Deutsch and Pink Legend
Charlie Deutsch and Pink Legend (Simon Marper/PA)

Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch were another trainer-jockey combination to score twice at Ascot as Pink Legend took the most valuable contest of the day, the Events At Ascot Handicap Chase.

Starting at 15-2, the mare reproduced the form that saw her land a Listed race at Cheltenham last time out and seemed to stick to the task at hand when the cheekpieces previously used were removed.

“She was jumping sufficiently quickly, I thought I’d sit upsides Nico (de Boinville, Lust For Glory) as he was travelling well,” Deutsch said.

“I gave her a squeeze coming off the bend and she’s picked up really nicely, I’m very pleased with her.

“She had them on (cheekpieces) at Cheltenham last time and it seemed to work, she was looking around a lot in her races last year.

“Today she seemed to be going sweetly and wanted to get on with it, I’m glad we had left the cheekpieces off really.”

Kapga De Lily (right) is being aimed at a good prize
Kapga De Lily (right) is being aimed at a good prize (Simon Marper/PA)

Williams and Deutsch then struck again with another mare in the Not Forgotten Handicap Chase, this time the notably consistent chestnut Kapga De Lily.

The eight-year-old has not been seen since April but was a five-times winner last season and seemed to happily pick up where she left off with a genuine one-and-a-half-length success at 13-2.

Williams said: “It’s lovely to come here to Ascot and have two winners, particularly as everybody says it’s not my ground!

“In fairness to Kapga De Lily she ran on good round at Haydock at the end of last season so I knew she’d operate on it.

“We started her later because we’ve still got the final of the mares’ Hereford series (Hereford Mares’ Chase Series), we’ve qualified her for that as she won it last year.

“The ratings are limited and after she won it last year we felt she only had one more chance to qualify – the plan is still to run there.”

Royal double for Henderson team at Southwell

The Queen enjoyed a Southwell double as Nico De Boinville steered two horses to success at the Nottinghamshire track in the royal silks.

The first of the Nicky Henderson-trained duo to strike was Kincardine, who won on his racecourse debut when taking the Dapper Spaniel Gastro Pub Rolleston Open National Hunt Flat Race after starting as 13-8 favourite.

The four-year-old is out of Side Step who is turn a daughter of Magic Score, with both dam and grand-dam owned by the Queen and trained by Henderson.

“He was fantastic, it was nice to have something to aim at for a change,” De Boinville told Sky Sports Racing after the early pace of the race was provided by No Authority.

Rapid Flight ridden by jockey Nico de Boinville on their way to winning the Happy Birthday Lucy Titchener ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle at Southwell Racecourse
Rapid Flight ridden by jockey Nico de Boinville on their way to winning the Happy Birthday Lucy Titchener ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle at Southwell Racecourse (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I think it might turn out to be a nice bumper in time, he’s a really nice horse and he showed plenty of toe there.

“He was doing enough in front, he pricked his ears and I knew if the other horse came to me, he’d have gone on again.”

The owner-trainer-jockey trio then enjoyed an immediate second success on the card as Rapid Flight landed the Happy Birthday Lucy Titchener ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle.

The five-year-old made all of the running and stayed on to shake off a challenge from Sounds Russian before passing the post a length and a quarter ahead as a 9-4 shot.

Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan also teamed for a treble on the card, with Coole Well prevailing in the Free Racecourse Entry With Golf Membership Handicap Chase to provide their first success.

The eight-year-old started as 10-11 favourite and only officially joined O’Brien’s stable six days ago after spending some time at Brennan’s base since departing his former yard.

Coole Well ridden by jockey Paddy Brennan clear a fence on their way to winning the Free Racecourse Entry With Golf Membership Handicap Chase at Southwell Racecourse
Coole Well, ridden by jockey Paddy Brennan, clears a fence on their way to winning the Free Racecourse Entry With Golf Membership Handicap Chase at Southwell Racecourse (Mike Egerton/PA)

O’Brien said: “Paddy more or less trained him for this one.

“We’ve had Coole Well four or five weeks, Paddy’s done all the work at home.

“He’s got a nice set up there and he’s just been hacking about.

“The longer we’ve had him, the better he’s settled in, so we were very pleased with that. It was lovely the way he travelled and jumped.”

Byzantine Empire (3-1) then produced O’Brien and Brennan’s second success when a three-and-a-half-length winner of the Jigsaw Sports Branding Novices’ Hurdle before As High Say (2-1 favourite) wrapped up the hat-trick with victory in the Rolleston Revival Village Event Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.

The favourite also prevailed in the Follow Jigsaw Sports Branding On Twitter Handicap Chase as Kerry Lee’s Do It For Thy Sen crossed the line eight lengths ahead of his nearest rival under Brendan Powell.

Having triumphed at the same track on his last outing, the gelding was 5-2 favourite for the contest and ran prominently from the start.

Picking up the lead with three fences left to navigate, the seven-year-old was easily able to pull away from the rest of the field and was a ready winner of the two-and-a-half-mile contest.

Do It For Thy Sen, ridden by jockey Brendan Powell, clears a fence on his way to winning the Follow Jigsaw Sports Branding On Twitter Handicap Chase at Southwell Racecourse
Do It For Thy Sen, ridden by jockey Brendan Powell, clears a fence on his way to winning the Follow Jigsaw Sports Branding On Twitter Handicap Chase at Southwell Racecourse (PA/Mike Egerton)

Tanit River provided Robbie Llewellyn and Bradley Gibbs with a success in the Join Southwell Golf Club Open Hunters’ Chase at 4-1.

The 11-year-old brought credible form from hunter chases at Ascot and Cheltenham and made all of the running to deny David Maxwell aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained 8-15 favourite Cat Tiger.

“He ran at Cheltenham in the four-miler and he jumped and travelled very well that day,” Gibbs said.

“Four miles around Cheltenham was probably a bit too far for him, but he’s back here today. Robbie said he had him in good form and to be fair, he did – he jumped and galloped today.”

Shishkin stays unbeaten over fences with Aintree strike

Shishkin maintained his unbeaten record over fences with a workmanlike performance in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree.

Nicky Henderson’s exciting prospect may not have been as impressive as in previous races, but the 1-8 favourite got the job done to complete the Cheltenham/Aintree two-mile novice Grade One double after taking the Arkle Trophy last month.

Gumball made the running until Nico de Boinville decided to go on some way from home.

Funambule Sivola put in a brave bid, but Shishkin was too good and went on to win by three and a quarter lengths in what was a good time.

Shishkin was left unchanged as 6-4 favourite for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase with the sponsors and Coral, while Betfair and Paddy Power kept him at 5-4.

Henderson, who also did the double with Chantry House, said: “It’s always difficult after Cheltenham to know how much to do with them. Obviously they are fit, but the team have done great because they came here in pretty good nick. Both are very good novices though, they’ve had pretty nearly perfect seasons.

“Nico said he could have done with a lead for longer. Gumball usually goes a solid gallop, but he didn’t today. He’s a very laid-back horse and at home you don’t see the speed you see on track. He’s got a wonderful temperament and I suspect he was just getting lonely. Fair play to the second, though.

“It’s amazing how quick he gets to the other side of a fence, it’s a very effective technique but it is a bit unusual.

“He won’t go to Punchestown, doing the two is difficult, doing the three, you need to be Sprinter or something, who did it one year.

“You’d like to think it will be the normal two-mile route next year, and I’d like to think Altior is at Sandown in two weeks. If they meet next year, they have to meet.

“It’s amazing we’ve gone from Sprinter to Altior and this lad is going the right way the whole time.”

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.”

Top amateur turned professional Edwards able to look forward to Cheltenham

Alex Edwards’ Doncaster victory on the promising Osprey Call was further vindication of his decision to turn professional just three weeks ago – a move which means he can seek more Cheltenham glory next month.

On the day it was confirmed all Edwards’ former amateur colleagues will remain out of action until after the Festival, because of coronavirus restrictions, even in the moment of victory he had inevitably mixed feelings.

The 30-year-old will be able to bid for his second success in the St. James’s Place Festival Hunters’ Chase – be it on 2019 winner Hazel Hill or one of the 13-year-old’s younger stablemates Wishing And Hoping or Salvatore.

Ex British point-to-point champion Edwards was due to complete this campaign as an amateur for trainer Phil Rowley, until the season was put on hold last month – and subsequently amateurs were suspended from riding under rules.

Against that backdrop, he made the switch early.

“It was always my plan to turn at the end of the point-to-point season – because I could ride a lot of point-to-pointing for my boss,” he said.

“That’s always been my main job. But with my boss (Rowley’s wife, Mel) now training under rules, it made sense for me – now or never to go professional.

“With the stopping of the amateurs riding, it spurred me on to do it quicker. I’d been speaking to the BHA beforehand, and it pushed me into making a decision there and then.”

Edwards may face a tough choice over which horse to ride at Cheltenham.

He said: “We’re very lucky – we’ve got a selection of two or three I could possibly ride.

“I can keep the ride. That’s great for me, but obviously there’s not great news for the whole amateur side.

“A lot of good friends of mine work very, very hard (as amateur jockeys) – so it’s just frustrating for them. Let’s hope, in a month’s time,  we’re all back up and running and this is all forgotten about.”

Edwards should have more to smile about with the Alastair Ralph-trained Osprey Call, who overcame a significant mistake and awkward landing at the last for a near four-length win from Across The Line in the opening Virgin Bet Novices’ Hurdle.

“He’s a very green horse,” he said of the 7-1 winner.

“One minute he’s hanging right, then he’s hanging left, so it’s just trying to keep him on the straight and narrow.

“He’s got plenty of ability, and I think he could be going places.

“He was fairly keen early on. He’s a baby, and has to learn to settle and to breathe and to get into a rhythm jumping.

“It’s all a bit of a rush for him at the moment. But to go out and still win like that is quite nice – really impressive.”

Beau Bay produced an exemplary round of jumping from the front, apart from a blip at the second-last, to take the feature Virgin Bet Veterans’ Handicap Chase by almost four lengths from Ami Desbois.

Doncaster Races – February 24th, 2021
Beau Bay jumped well to win the Virgin Bet Veterans’ Handicap Chase (Tim Goode/PA)

The back-to-form Grand Sefton winner proved three miles is his bag these days – and after his 8-1 victory under Charlie Hammond, trainer Dr Richard Newland will be making future plans on that basis.

Among them the 2022 Grand National may even enter the equation – because although Beau Bay has an entry back at Aintree this year too, at 98th in the list he has no realistic chance of making the cut.

Newland said: “I was a bit gutted – because I thought he had a chance of winning the veterans’ race at Exeter (last week), and they called off the chases at the last minute (because of frost) and just ran the hurdles.

“That would have put him in the National – which is what we’d love to do.

“But he’s in the Kim Muir, and we might have a go.

“Then maybe, if he’s high enough rated, next year the National.”

Beau Bay, a bargain buy for the yard out of a Worcester claimer four years ago, has exceeded all expectations.

Newland added: “”He’s quite a small horse – but for whatever reason, he just loves the chasing.

“He tends to get a bit forgotten about in these races – people think he’s been around the block a bit, and is exposed.

“But he’s just in rude health. He’s an incredible horse – extraordinary. You can pay thousands and thousands, and you won’t get one as good as that.”

At £150,000, Patroclus was a little more expensive – but after Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old had doubled his career tally in his just his third race under rules, jockey Nico de Boinville was in no doubt he has potential.

Patroclus and Nico de Boinville were winners in the Virgin Bet EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle
Patroclus and Nico de Boinville were winners in the Virgin Bet EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle (Tim Goode/PA)

Following the evens favourite’s three-quarter-length success from market rival Riggs in the Virgin Bet EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle, he could chase a high-profile hat-trick if taking up next month’s Ballymore entry at Cheltenham.

A patient approach may be more likely, however.

De Boinville said: “He’s a smashing horse – a really solid National Hunt type.

“He probably got a bit lonely but stayed all the way, and I think he’ll want three miles in time.

“I wouldn’t know where we’re going to go after that, but he’s very much a long-term project.”

Chantry House back in business at Wetherby

Chantry House put himself “back on track” for the big spring festivals with a return to winning form in Wetherby’s Bet At racingtv.com Novices’ Chase.

Jockey Nico de Boinville could reflect on a retrieval mission successfully completed as last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third put behind him a 14-length defeat on his second chase start at Cheltenham in December.

Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old jumped economically and well to land the odds as 4-5 favourite, by three-and-a-quarter lengths from Coconut Splash.

Chantry House led early in the straight and stayed on well, earning a new quote of 10-1 from Paddy Power for next month’s Marsh Novices’ Chase back at Cheltenham.

De Boinville was not about to pinpoint that target, or any others, but pronounced himself very satisfied after winning with his only mount on the card.

“I was happy with that,” he said.

“He’s put Cheltenham behind him there. He jumped well, despite the ground. You couldn’t really be asking for too many big jumps, because he wouldn’t last home then.

“(But) his jumping was very measured, I think.

“I don’t know what the plan is – we’ll leave that to connections and the boss.”

Chantry House was conceding 6lb to an undoubtedly useful runner-up, and De Boinville added: “I thought that was probably the one, coming into this race, we were going to have to beat.

“That was good – back on track. That was the most important thing after Cheltenham the last day.

“He’s jumped and travelled well, which is what we were hoping for.

“I think he’ll be better on better ground as well.”

Kerry Lee does have a specific Cheltenham race in mind for Ballybegg after the 10-11 favourite’s determined victory in the opening Every Race Live On Racing TV Novices’ Hurdle.

Following her 100th winner in Britain, the Herefordshire trainer was kind enough to suggest the correct soundbite, too.

“It’s Ballybegg for the Ballymore!” she said.

The six-year-old, who led almost throughout and then battled back strongly when headed to beat expensive recruit Papa Tango Charly by a head, remains a general 66-1 shot for his only Cheltenham entry.

But Lee said: “I think we’ll have to seriously consider it – as long as there’s some cut in the ground.

“I’ve been in the job long enough now to think ‘Well, when you have an opportunity you should take it’.

“You don’t get many horses you can consider running in a Grade One.

“When you do, and they’ve won like that, why not?”

Ballybegg and jockey Richard Patrick were following up their wide-margin win at Hereford last month.

Dual course winner Storm Control is set to return to Cheltenham next month
Dual course winner Storm Control is set to return to Cheltenham next month (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Lee added: “It was a very nice performance – I don’t know how good he is.

“But the runner-up is a very decent horse on his day, and he clearly ran a very solid race.”

Lee is readying two more stable stars for Cheltenham, in Storm Control and Happy Diva.

“It’ll be Storm Control (Kim Muir), Happy Diva (Mares’ Chase) and this chap,” she said.

“I’ve only got 20 to run – so that’s not bad, is it? We like a bit of quality.”

Storm Control also has a Grand National entry – but well down the order after the publication of the Aintree weights on Tuesday, Lee is realistic about his prospects of making the cut.

“He is in the National, but I’m not sure he’ll get in,” she said

“I had a quick count down and thought ‘aah’.

“We’ll concentrate on Cheltenham.”

Lee and Patrick were denied a double when Umbrigado beat their Destined To Shine by two and a half lengths in the feature Sixt Car Hire Handicap Chase.

David Pipe’s novice, having just his third race over fences, was adding to last month’s victory at Fontwell under Tom Scudamore – and is another who may have Festival aspirations.

Scudamore said of the 7-2 winner: “That was really good. We always thought he would make into a nice chaser, and he’s beginning to do that.

“He saw that out well in tough conditions – he’s very versatile.

“He’ll improve for more experience.

“I imagine he’ll have entries at Cheltenham, but we’ll see – whether it’s Grand Annual or the two-and-a-half (Paddy Power Plate). It’s a shame that the two-and-a-half-mile novice isn’t there any more – that would have been the race for him.”

Nightboattoclyro and Robbie Dunne (leading) won the racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle at Wetherby
Nightboattoclyro and Robbie Dunne (leading) won the racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle at Wetherby (Tim Goode/PA)

Robbie Dunne made his first ride on Nightboattoclyro a winning one as Sam Drinkwater’s improving seven-year-old completed his hat-trick, up in grade for the racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle.

The well-backed 3-1 favourite collared front-runner West To The Bridge to prevail by almost two lengths, and Drinkwater said: “He’ll probably have one more run, then he’ll be a chaser next season.

“He won’t get in to Cheltenham, but there’s bound to be something for him at Aintree.”

West To The Bridge’s trainer Dan Skelton was successful with 9-2 shot Embole in the BoscaSports Racings Digital Display Handicap Hurdle – after which Jonathan England was suspended for 11 days for excessive use of the whip on runner-up Billy Ray.

Shishkin strikes Lightning gold

Shishkin delivered another supreme display in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster.

With Cheddleton a late absentee, only four went to post for the Grade Two and Nico de Boinville settled the 1-7 favourite in third.

Eldorado Allen and Est Illic set a decent tempo in the testing ground before Est Illic found it too much with half a mile to run.

De Boinville just had to niggle on the Nicky Henderson-trained market leader, but he joined Eldorado Allen at the fourth last and the race was soon over.

Shishkin’s jumping in the straight was perfect and he finished with his head in his chest, prevailing by eight and a half lengths.

Speaking from his Lambourn base, Henderson said: “It’s a no-win situation really. He had to do what he did otherwise everyone is disappointed, obviously he’s not going to run again now and he doesn’t need to.

“He was good and as far as I’m concerned, it was what we wanted.

“Nico said they went a good gallop, the ground was hard work but he jumped accurately.

“It’s very nice for his lad, Jaydon Lee, who is in the final three of the newcomers section for the Godolphin Stable Staff Awards.

“They were trying to say on TV that he jumped left, he might have a bit, but when he goes right he jumps right. At least we know which way he’s jumping next time, all being well, now we’ve got to get there.

“We haven’t used this race before the Arkle with Sprinter Sacre and Altior, but we are very lucky to keep finding these seriously good horses.

“This lad won the Supreme, like Altior, but Sprinter was only third under Mr (Tony) McCoy, as he was at the time.

“He’s different to the other two in a lot of ways as he doesn’t tank through races, he’s very amenable, just as he is in his work. The other two were bruisers, they want every canter to be a gallop!

“It actually makes things a little easier with him as you press the button to go faster, but you can flick the switch off.

“As soon as he went upsides today, he breezed past and the second is not a bad horse, let’s be fair, but he waltzed past.

“You can’t do any more than he did and I can say I’m mighty relieved. I’ve just spoken to (owner) Joe Donnelley and he said he’d never been so nervous.

“We had little to gain today and everything to lose, but it’s over and hopefully he gets there in one piece.”

Nico de Boinville was thrilled with Shishkin
Nico de Boinville was thrilled with Shishkin (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Boinville added: “They tried to turn it into a test on that ground. It didn’t seem to faze Shishkin at all. He jumped and travelled.

“He was just slightly hanging left. He’s like that at home. Some days he can wake up and hang left, some days hang right. It’s just how he’s feeling. Some days he’s as straight as a die. Today he just went that way following the rail round.

“It doesn’t stop him or slow him down. It doesn’t bother him.

“I’m excited about him, the whole team are as well.

“We’re just delighted to get that out of the way. It gives us plenty of time to prep going to the Festival.

“Jonjo O’Neill flicked the button. He gave his horse (Eldorado Allen) a slap down the shoulder. It lit Shishkin up and off he went.

“He doesn’t waste any time in the air. He’s a very slick jumper. He almost hurdles his fences, which the best two milers do. The faster they went, the better he jumped.

“I think he’s got it all and he’s answered our calls. We’re excited and looking forward to what he can do.”