Shishkin on course for Arkle

 In Lambourn News

It was third time lucky for Nicky Henderson on Saturday – not that there is any luck needed where a horse as good as Shishkin is concerned.

Still, even a champion trainer might have been excused the odd flicker of concern after two odds-on hotpots had failed to deliver on their trip north to Haydock last Saturday, with novice chaser Allart a faller and dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air beaten on his return from injury.

Seven days on at Doncaster Shishkin had little to win and an awful lot to lose in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Lightning Novices’ Chase and soft, dead ground – his jockey Nico de Boinville called it “very hard work” after riding in the opener – can level a gap in class.

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner was already odds-on to add the Arkle Chase to his Cheltenham collection after two sublime victories over fences prior to this Grade 2 contest.

And those who had played ante-post were never given cause to doubt their investment decision as he made it three from three with the minimum of fuss, scoring by eight and a half lengths from Jonjo O’Neill Jr’s mount Eldorado Allen at 1-7.

“He felt great,” De Boinville said. “I thought they went a proper gallop today. It was a real test in that ground and really hard work. I thought his jumping was very accurate and probably the best it has been so far. He has come into the race very easily and strode away.

“I don’t think that could have been more simple for him. It was very straightforward. I was happy that he strode away all the way to the line and put real distance between him and the second horse. He had a good workout there, which is ideal for his prep. Onwards to Cheltenham and fingers crossed.”

Still, even a champion trainer might have been excused the odd flicker of concern after two odds-on hotpots had failed to deliver on their trip north to Haydock last Saturday, with novice chaser Allart a faller and dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air beaten on his return from injury.

Seven days on at Doncaster Shishkin had little to win and an awful lot to lose in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Lightning Novices’ Chase and soft, dead ground – his jockey Nico de Boinville called it “very hard work” after riding in the opener – can level a gap in class.

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner was already odds-on to add the Arkle Chase to his Cheltenham collection after two sublime victories over fences prior to this Grade 2 contest.

And those who had played ante-post were never given cause to doubt their investment decision as he made it three from three with the minimum of fuss, scoring by eight and a half lengths from Jonjo O’Neill Jr’s mount Eldorado Allen at 1-7.

“He felt great,” De Boinville said. “I thought they went a proper gallop today. It was a real test in that ground and really hard work. I thought his jumping was very accurate and probably the best it has been so far. He has come into the race very easily and strode away.

“I don’t think that could have been more simple for him. It was very straightforward. I was happy that he strode away all the way to the line and put real distance between him and the second horse. He had a good workout there, which is ideal for his prep. Onwards to Cheltenham and fingers crossed.

“He’s very laid-back. It wasn’t until he heard Jonjo giving his horse a slap down the neck that he really came alive underneath me.”

Next step will be the festival and a clash with the Willie Mullins-trained Energumene, who has looked similarly impressive in winning his first two chases.

“I think I speak for myself and the team at home when I say we’re delighted it’s gone to plan,” De Boinville said.

“We have plenty of time to get him ready and fighting fit to take on Willie Mullins’s horse at Cheltenham. It should be a pretty fascinating clash.”

Asked about Shishkin jumping to his left, the jockey said: “He was slightly hanging left but he’s like that at home, some days he can wake up and hang left, some days he can wake up and hang right, it’s how he’s feeling and some days he’s straight as a die.

“I’m excited about him and the whole team at home are as well.

“He doesn’t waste any time in the air. He’s a very slick jumper, he almost hurdles his fences which is what some of the best two-milers do, Douvan was fairly similar. He’s got it all, he’s answered our calls so we’re looking forward to what he can do.”

Courtesy of Racing Post

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