Shishkin wins Arkle for Henderson
Imagine what a horse would have to do for Nicky Henderson of all people to compare them with the two horses that have defined the two-mile chasing division over the last decade in Sprinter Sacre and Altior.
That gives you some idea of just how dominant a performance Shishkin produced in obliterating four rivals in the Sporting Life Arkle.
Jumping three out it looked like developing into a cracking race, with Shishkin looming up on the outside of Captain Guinness and Allmankind, who had taken each other on from the tape. By two out it was over.
In truth the challengers probably did not wilt too much. Eldorado Allen, who was stashed out the back and ridden to pick up the pieces, only just managed to overhaul them in the final strides. That Shishkin tanked his way 12 lengths clear of the lot, without so much as coming off the bridle, is the context in which he was made 5-2 favourite for next year’s Champion Chase – ahead of this year’s odds-on market leader Chacun Pour Soi.
That is because the official margin was only representative of the bare minimum of Shishkin’s authority. It is impossible to know just how much more was there if needed, but equally it is fair to wonder if there is a horse in training capable of finding out.
“How lucky can you be? We had the great days when Sprinter won it and then Altior came through and it’s extraordinary to find another one,” said Henderson, who had to deal with the disappointment of the last named being ruled out of this year’s Champion Chase on Monday.
“He looked every bit as good as the other two and he’s a long way to go before he can be mentioned in the same breath, but he couldn’t have done any more than that today.”
He could not. Neither could his generous owner Joe Donnelly, who donated £10,000 of his share of the winning prize-money to WellChild, the charity Cheltenham has partnered with this year and whose name adorns the Gold Cup in which his Al Boum Photo will bid for a third straight success.
Nico de Boinville, the man whose career was launched by Sprinter Sacre and is synonymous with Altior, was similarly glowing. He said: “I’m absolutely over the moon to be on a horse such as Shishkin, his profile is amazing. He’s a fantastic horse.
“After that you could say he will be anything. It’s a massive shame Energumene didn’t come over, it would have been some match-up. Shishkin was in some form and would have taken some beating.
“He’s very versatile, let’s not pigeonhole him to trips at the moment. That was a really hard, fast-run two-mile race and no prisoners were taken.”
Henderson added: “He’s got a high cruising speed and sat on their tails. Nico brought him wide, he had plenty of horse from two out but he was impressive the way he came up the hill.”
Asked if Shishkin could be out again this season, Henderson responded: “Why not? That was only his fourth chase and we haven’t asked him too many questions up until now, he’d not had to beat anything and he’d only been on flat courses. It’s the first time he’s been asked a big question and when you see an answer like that you have to think why wouldn’t you think of Aintree – I assume that’s the only place he would go.”
Joe Tizzard, who will soon take over the training licence from his father Colin, said of runner-up Eldorado Allen: “We were in two minds as to which race we’d run him in, we just felt in these novice chases you can nick good prize-money if you finish second. I’m delighted with him, they went a right gallop and he stayed on really well.
“We can step him up in trip in time and go to those nice handicaps next year. There’s no reason why we can’t go to Aintree next. There’s a two-and-a-half miler [Manifesto Novices’ Chase, April 8] there, which would help him.”
Courtesy of Racing Post