Shishkin faces four in Denman Chase

Shishkin will face four rivals as he bids to book his Gold Cup ticket in the Denman Chase at Newbury on Saturday.

Trainer : Nicky Henderson.
Trainer : Nicky Henderson. Picture: PA

All five horses stood their ground at the 48-hour declaration stage on Thursday morning, with the Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin a general 8/15 chance to enhance his Cheltenham Gold Cup claims.

The ten-year-old got off to something of an inauspicious start this season when he refused to race in the 1965 Chase at Ascot in November, while heavy ground saw Henderson withdraw Shishkin from a reappearance outing over hurdles in the rearranged Fighting Fifth at Sandown a month later.

Things looked to be going smoothly for the six-time Grade 1 winner on his first start of the season in the King George Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, but disaster struck shortly after Shishkin jumped the penultimate flight with a length advantage and following a stumble on landing, regular partner Nico de Boinville was unshipped from the saddle.

It remains to be seen what would have happened that day, but connections will be hopeful he can get back to winning ways at the Berkshire venue come Saturday afternoon.

Henderson said of his chances: "It was going to be a good performance (at Kempton), so you hope he if builds on that he has to have a pretty good chance here."

"If he's going to go on to better things, he's virtually got to be very very good at Newbury."

Shishkin's main rival looks to be the Dan Skelton-trained Protektorat, who finished runner-up behind one of Britain's leading Gold Cup contenders L'Homme Presse at Lingfield three weeks ago.

Kim Bailey's Does He Know, last year's runner-up Hitman and Sam Brown round out the quartet.

Elsewhere on the card, a maximum field of 24 will head to post for the feature £155,000 Betfair Hurdle.

Willie Mullins will be hoping ante-post market leader Ocastle Des Mottes can make a successful stable debut to provide the multiple Irish Champion trainer with his first success in the valuable Newbury handicap hurdle. The five-year-old was purchased by the owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede on the back of an impressive success at Auteuil in June and although clearly well-fancied to make an impact off his 6lb lower British mark, connections were keen to warn that the market leader was not a definite runner due to potential travel issues across the Irish Sea with high winds forecast.

Nicky Henderson will saddle all four of his entries with the locally-based Seven Barrows maestro declaring a quartet of runners. The JP McManus-owned Iberico Lord, the choice of Nico de Boinville, leads the English challenge at a general 5/1, with Luccia, Under Control, and Doddiethegreat also set to take their chance for the Henderson team.

Harry Cobden has been booked to partner Ben Pauling's impressive Huntingdon novice hurdle winner on his handicap debut, while Lookaway will be bidding to go one better than when runner-up in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle for Neil King.

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