Shishkin silenced the doubters by clinching victory on his return to action in the Denman Chase on Super Saturday at Newbury; Hitman finishes second ahead of stablemate Protektorat; Shishkin 8/1 for the Gold Cup
Saturday 10 February 2024 15:12, UK
Shishkin returned to form with victory in the Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury on Saturday afternoon.
Nicky Henderson's star got back to winning ways after his King George fall with an impressive triumph in West Berkshire.
The success was the 10-year-old's fourth at Grade Two level, and his 14th triumph under rules for owners Joe and Marie Donnelly.
Nico De Boinville's charge is now a 6/1 shot for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, where he is likely to meet Galopin Des Champs and Fastorslow.
Protektorat began the contest the brightest, racing prominently and jumping the opening fences strongly under Harry Skelton. Shishkin fell three lengths behind following the third fence, where a poor jump cost him momentum.
All the runners and riders made it safely over the first open ditch after six, with Harry Cobden and Hitman occupying the running rail in touch with the aforementioned frontrunners. Protektorat's strong jumping showed no sign of stopping as the contest passed the halfway mark, while Shishkin lost yet more ground when brushing fence number 13.
Four out, Nico De Boinville started to engage his gelding and saw a response, as Protektorat's lead was cut to just three parts of a length soon after. Protektorat ran out of steam with two fences to go, allowing Hitman to take second place - four and a half lengths behind Henderson's champion who came on ever stronger in the closing stages.
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Henderson said: "The ground wasn't anything like I thought it would be. I was rather hesitant but he had to run, but the ground wasn't that bad and Newbury have done a great job.
"That is actually his first completed run since Aintree last year, he had a good blow there and Nico thought it would do him a lot of good and it will actually do us all a lot of good.
"He's jumped very well and probably missed one, otherwise he jumped great. He just needed it more than anything else and we had to do it regardless of conditions.
"I think we have to (go to the Gold Cup) because there is nowhere else to go. You could wait for Aintree, but no, that's where we are and that's what he is.
"I don't think three and a quarter (miles) is going to frighten him and hopefully we have the starting bug out of our head, he was faultless there - even better than he was at Kempton. We're in control of him now. He's behaving our way, not his. He's like that, he's a good character.
"I went to Ireland to see how Willie's (Mullins) horses were getting on last weekend and Shishkin has a chance - of course he has. I don't see any point in not running and he can't come back to two and a half because he's not in it (Ryanair Chase) anyway.
"It looked like he was going to win the King George and that would have put him in the picture. But he's won today and that definitely puts him in the picture - let's go!"