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Barry Geraghty hails Shishkin's Ascot efforts – but warns Cheltenham Gold Cup bid could come too soon

Shishkin returned to somewhere near his vintage best at Ascot on Saturday, clearing away to win the Grade One Ascot Chase; Barry Geraghty thinks the Ryanair Chase is his best option at the Cheltenham Festival

Shishkin impressed with his jumping in the Betfair Ascot Chase
Image: Shishkin impressed with his jumping in the Betfair Ascot Chase

Barry Geraghty could not have been more impressed with Shishkin's winning return in the Ascot Chase, but warned a Cheltenham Gold Cup bid could come a year too soon.

Nicky Henderson's star chaser got back to his best stepped up in trip on Saturday in the Ascot Chase, pulling clear of Pic D'orhy and Fakir D'oudairies in fine style and rocketing to the top of the Ryanair Chase market at the same time.

But while he is favourite to land the intermediate race at Cheltenham, much has been said about the prospect of him either returning to the Champion Chase trip of two miles or stepping up to the Cheltenham Gold Cup distance.

And Geraghty - a former stable jockey for Nicky Henderson - feels that the Ryanair distance could be perfect for Shishkin at this stage of his career.

"It was a great performance," Geraghty told Off The Fence. "From the word go, he jumped and travelled and he was just in comfort zone and that's what he wasn't in the Tingle Creek.

"That's why he didn't jump as well as he should've that day, he was under the pump a lot of the way.

Watch the Winter Derby live on Sky Sports Racing!
Watch the Winter Derby live on Sky Sports Racing!

Lord North will bid to go one better in Saturday's Group 3 Winter Derby at Lingfield, live on Sky Sports Racing.

"But on Saturday at Ascot, he was brilliant. He jumped really well and he was the winner everywhere - he was the class horse he is.

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"He could go the Gold Cup route and pedigree would suggest he can get the trip. It's a big step from two miles to go for the Gold Cup trip of three miles and two furlongs around Cheltenham which is very hard to get.

"The Ryanair is tailor-made for him and Nicky [Henderson] said afterwards he could go to the Bowl at Aintree and you could see him being a possible King George horse next season.

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Trainer Nicky Henderson has ruled out stepping down in trip to the Champion Chase after Shishkin's Ascot Chase victory, with Sky Sports Racing's Matt Chapman admitting he got it wrong

"Then the Gold Cup could be considered but for the minute, we're getting the impression it would be the Ryanair.

"He's back up to the level that for me, he would've won the Champion Chase at but he just needs a good bit further now.

"He'd had a bit of work on his wind done just to help him and he wore a tongue tie for the first time but he was really impressive and he's really solid for the Ryanair."

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