Shishkin will take on fellow two-mile titan Energumene in a mouth-watering clash at Ascot next Saturday after Nicky Henderson confirmed he would try his luck in the SBK Clarence House Chase (3.35).
The news prompted the eight-year-old’s odds to narrow to an overall 4-7 (from 6-4) for the freshman award, while Energumene has a 2-1 chance.
Saturday January 22: Clarence House Chase card and bets
Henderson made the decision on Saturday to travel to Ascot with Shishkin after seeing him work in the morning, with racing with the race seen as the best option for his last race before the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
The coach has won Clarence House twice since going Grade 1 Open, scoring with Seven Barrow greats Sprinter Sacre (2013) and Altior (2019).
“It was such a thick fog this morning that they flashed through, but it was definitely a flash and we’re going to give it the go-ahead,” Henderson said.
“Nico was delighted with him and barring any accidents during the week and all sorts of things that come to bite you and haunt you, we’re on. He was delighted with him this morning.
“He will jump five barriers [between now and next Saturday] but his work was very, very good. He’s a lot lighter than when he came to Kempton last time and he’s back to last year’s weight. I’d like to think we’re in good shape.”
Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
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Shishkin: Back for the season with a dominating victory in the Desert Orchid Chase at Christmas
Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Willie Mullins-trained Energumene, meanwhile, recently landed the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase in Cork, taking their winning streak to seven, including two Grade 1 victories last season.
The pair have unbeaten records dating back to 2019, but it’s stable star Henderson who is rated higher. He earned a Racing Post Rating of 175 with his success at Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival last season and repeated it with an elegant ten-length win on the return this season – Energumene hit 174 in his only appearance this season. season in Cork.
The duo’s first meeting was originally due to take place during their Novice Pursuit season, at the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival. It was billed as one of the reunion races before Energumene was ruled out days before the race due to a limp. Shishkin easily won with odds of 4-9.
Shishkin then did not appear in the Tingle Creek to take on another top performer from Mullins in Everyone For Self. This runner finished a disappointing third, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Greeneteen in the lead.
Henderson added: “You don’t intend for these clashes to happen until March, but Shishkin is doing really well and you have to run somewhere and that’s where we’re going to go.
“I prefer the timing [than running at Newbury next month]; It gives me the chance to take a step back and then prepare for the festival.”
Champion Chase (March 16): Race Card and Betting
Henderson also confirmed novice hurdler Jonbon was on course for the Grade 2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial at Haydock on the same day.
The JP McManus-owned rider got off to a clean start at Seven Barrows, winning all three starts under the rules and making an impressive debut for Graded Company when landing the Howden Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot in December.
“From what I could see, he worked very well [this morning] and Nico was happy,” said the coach.
Henderson also worked Champ and Chantry House and seemed to be leaning towards the Cleeve Hurdle for Champ next, not completely ruling out returning to fences.
“It’s the probability, but he still has both options open,” the coach said.
Clarence House Chase Betting
Power of rice: 4-7 Shishkin, 2 Energumene, 7 First Flow, 10 Hitman, 16 Tightrope Walker Sivola
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First Flow adds more spice to ‘one of the races of the season’ at Clarence House
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