Shishkin impresses on chasing debut

Mon 23rd Nov 2020, 18:46

Shishkin and Nico de Boinville clear the second-last fence at Kempton
© Photo Healy Racing

Shishkin put in an assured performance to make a successful debut on his eagerly-awaited first try over fences under rules at Kempton.

Rated as talented a prospect by trainer Nicky Henderson since Arkle Trophy and dual Champion Chase winner Altior had his first start over the bigger obstacles in the same race four years ago, Shishkin did everything asked of him.

His jumping looked immaculate for a novice from the first fence, where he outjumped Battle Anthem in the Racing TV-sponsored beginners’ event.

Taking a clear lead under Nico de Boinville after clearing the second, Shishkin had the two-and-a-quarter-mile contest to himself from then on.

Mick Pastor tried briefly to mount a challenge, but the 1-6 favourite went on to score a facile success by 23 lengths. Battle Anthem was another 49 lengths away, last of the three finishers.

Shishkin was trimmed to 6-4 favourite from 2-1 for the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy with Coral and cut to 7-4 from 5-2 with Betfair and Paddy Power.

Henderson said: “I think you have to give him a 10 out of 10 for his jumping today.

“With Altior, you turn him in and look at a fence and he’s gone, whereas this fellow is actually a titch more sensible.

“All you do in these situations is breathe a sigh of relief — you are glad when it is over.

“Having said that, you would have to be very pleased with the way he has executed the mission. He has enjoyed himself and he is quite showy when he wants to be.

“Nico was more pleased with him at the last when there was no stride at all, but he was just very sensible and quick. When he needed to just adjust himself and get to the other side, he was very good at that as well.

“You can see what he can do when he is long. You just pray he doesn’t go too long sometimes and try to do something silly to get out of trouble. He was very sensible.

“It was the same when Altior came here and you let them do that (go out in front). We’ve had a nice school, but I love Kempton.

“It is lovely ground and Barney (Clifford, clerk of the course) has done his usual good job. I’ve been in touch with him all the way through and he said it was lovely ground.

“It is a very nice track for them to start as there are no traps around here. It’s just a very good racecourse. Nico went round this morning to make sure it was safe on top, but he said it was lovely ground.

“I think this horse is pretty versatile as far as the ground is concerned.”

Henderson is now looking to Kempton at Christmas for Shishkin, following a route he took with Altior in 2016.

He added: “I would think that (Wayward Lad) is probably the route. We were never tempted to go hurdling.

“The Altior situation was he could have won a Champion Hurdle and I suppose he could, but he is a chaser. This is the start of another expedition.

“We’ve been very lucky at having these two-milers and that is a genuine two-miler, there is no question at the moment in my mind anyway, as he is very quick.”

Like Henderson, De Boinville was delighted with Shishkin.

He said: “He showed a bit of everything there. He had to do a lot of the donkey work himself. I was really happy he came up out of my hands turning away to the stands. I asked him up at the ditch and replied and showed loads of scope, but at the same time when there wasn’t a stride there he was nimble and tight.

“I love how he quickened away and flicked his way over the last couple. I’m really looking forward to the season with him. A lot of horses can go long at their jumps, but it is the ones who are just as quick in tight and can really dance on the board — Coneygree was very similar on the board and that is where the true quality stands out.

“These are the horses we are in this game for, but at the same time you want to get it right and enjoy it as well. Horses like this are few and far between, so you want to enjoy every moment.

“We were a bit apprehensive about the ground, as they have not had that much rain, but Barney has done a great job with it and once I went out on it on Captain Morgs (in the opening hurdle race) I thought this was perfect for Shishkin.

“It is great for the team at home and it is great for Nicky and Joe Donnelly (owner) as well. He had been very good with his jumping at home, but he hadn’t been as flamboyant as that. He really does come alive on the track.

“He has had a really positive start. I think he is versatile and you could step him up to two and a half, but why would you want to? The programme is fairly laid out for those two-milers, you have to stay going up that hill at Cheltenham and it is probably the route we will be going.”

There was, however, a sad postscript to the race, as it emerged the Olly Murphy-trained Sangha River, who fell at the seventh fence, had suffered a fatal injury.

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