24 November 2023

Shishkin ‘in very good form’ for Ascot return – Henderson

24 November 2023

Shishkin sets out on what Nicky Henderson hopes will be a fruitful staying campaign when he lines up for the Nirvana Spa 1965 Chase at Ascot.

So brilliant at his best over two miles, the decision was taken to go over further immediately after he finished third in last year’s Tingle Creek at Sandown – his first start since being pulled up in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham that March, after which he was subsequently found to be suffering from a rare bone condition.

He looked magnificent in beating Pic D’Orhy in the Ascot Chase in February and did little wrong when second to Envoi Allen in the Ryanair Chase, before taking the plunge over three miles and a furlong at the Grand National meeting, staying on strongly to account for Ahoy Senor.

Henderson has his sights on the King George at Christmas, but first Shishkin must pass this two-mile-five-furlong reappearance test, where he again meets the Paul Nicholls-trained Pic D’Orhy.

“He’s in very good form. Nico (de Boinville) is happy with him, the timing is right and he’s done everything right,” said the master of Seven Barrows, who also had the option of going for the Betfair Chase with the nine-year-old.

“Pic D’Orhy is coming to Ascot and we will take on Bravemansgame later (in the King George).

“He showed us at Aintree he’s a stayer, it took him a long time to pick up Ahoy Senor. You can’t win a King George with a doubtful stayer, but he’s proved he does (stay).”

Although second best to Shishkin over course and distance earlier in the year, Pic D’Orhy would end his campaign with a decisive victory in the Melling Chase at Aintree and has Ditcheat stable jockey Harry Cobden on board for his return to action.

“I’ve always believed in this horse, who never stopped improving last season and looks fantastic,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“This Grade Two race has been his target from the moment he came back from holiday early in July.

“He is fit to run for his life, his work with Bravemansgame on Thursday was eyecatching and drying ground at Ascot is a big plus for him.

“We don’t think he was at his best when he was beaten by Shishkin at Ascot in February, as he’d had a few races before that, and things could well be different this time.”

Donald McCain’s Minella Drama was a bronze medallist behind Pic D’Orhy in the spring and also performed well on Merseyside on his seasonal bow when second in the Old Roan Chase.

Brian Hughes rides and said in his blog for Novibet.ie: “With Shishkin to beat, it’s not going to be easy for Minella Drama, but we are the only horse in the field with a run under our belt.

“He ran well on his return at Aintree and I think going right-handed at Ascot will suit. Strictly on ratings, we look fairly matched with Pic D’Orhy, but Shishkin is in the race, and he is a fair horse. I was hoping he’d be going to Haydock!

“We’re fit and I’d love to think we could beat him, but he’s some horse. I think we’ll give him a good race, though. We’re hoping he likes Ascot and can then pitch up there again in the Ascot Chase in February.”

The field of four is rounded off by Straw Fan Jack, who was set some lofty targets at the business end of last season and continues to have his sights aimed high by trainer Sheila Lewis.

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