Shishkin in 'terrific form' ahead of Denman Chase

Nicky Henderson suggested Shishkin is in 'terrific form' heading into the Grade 2 Denman Chase at Newbury this afternoon.

SHISHKIN winning the Ascot Chase in England.
SHISHKIN winning the Ascot Chase in England. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Shishkin will be looking to get his season back on the right tracks and lay down a stern Gold Cup marker in the Denman Chase this weekend, with the Donnelly-owned ten-year-old having had something of an interrupted preparation this season, after refusing to race in the 1965 Chase at Ascot in November before heavy ground saw Henderson withdraw his charge from a reappearance outing over hurdles in the rearranged Fighting Fifth at Sandown a month later.

The six-time Grade 1 winner looked set to post a high-class reappearance performance in the King George Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day until disaster struck shortly after the second last. The Nicky Henderson-trained runner stumbled on landing when holding a length advantage, leaving regular rider Nico de Boinville with no chance of remaining in the saddle.

It remains up to debate what would have occurred that day at Kempton, but Henderson firmly believed his horse "certainly wasn't getting tired at the time" and is seemingly expecting a bold bid from the son of Sholokhov this afternoon.

Henderson said: "Nico rode him out on Saturday morning and schooled him Wednesday morning. He jumped five fences and there was no point in him jumping any more,"

"I do think he is in good form, and he was very sharp Wednesday morning. Nico said he felt in terrific form and we're happy on that score.

"He's pretty versatile in terms of ground, I don't think you would want him in very, very soft ground, but we don't have much option. He has to go here, as there is nowhere else to go, and he needs a race."

The Seven Barrows handler continued: "Nico, from what he told me, felt he would have won (at Kempton). Obviously, he didn't see the unfolding of the race after the last like we did, and the Irish horse (Hewick) came home with a right rattle down the outside.

"He should come on for that and he needs to have another run if he is to run in the Gold Cup, which we are hoping to do.

"It's the ideal race, as Newbury is a lovely track and it's nice and local for us.

"With Protektorat running, he will probably be guaranteed a good gallop, and it will be handy just to get a lead, I suppose. He's very happy leading and Nico was very happy to send him on in the King George, as he felt the race needed keeping honest – so he would be very happy if he did end up in front."

Connections of main market rival, Protektorat, seem equally pleased with his preparations with the Dan Skelton-trained chaser coming off the back of a fine second-place finish to leading British Gold Cup contender L'Homme Presse in the Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield three weeks ago.

"He's in great form and we were always going for this race. Shishkin has turned up and we can't choose our opposition, but we'll give it a good go," said Skelton.

"We're very happy with our horse and there are no negatives."

Although weak in the betting throughout the morning, Shishkin remains a shade of odds-on to land the Grade 2 prize at Newbury.

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