Shishkin leads the way among Ryanair contenders
Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old is bidding for a third Festival win.Shishkin will face eight rivals as he goes for a third Festival win in Thursday’s Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham. Nicky Henderson’s charge landed the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2020 and followed up in the Arkle over fences the following year, but 2022 ended in disappointment as he was pulled up when sent off favourite for the Champion Chase. A rare bone condition was blamed for that defeat and after an initial lacklustre return in the Tingle Creek, Shishkin took a switch up to two miles and five furlongs in his stride when blazing home by 16 lengths in the Ascot Chase last month. Shishkin is a short price for the extended two-and-a-half-mile Ryanair, but he faces a stern test headed by the Willie Mullins-trained Blue Lord, who forms part of a triple Closutton assault along with Chacun Pour Soi and Janidil. Envoi Allen represents Henry de Bromhead while the Gordon Elliott-trained Fury Road and Mouse Morris’ French Dynamite round out the Irish challenge. Ga Law, winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup, has a first crack at Grade One level for Jamie Snowden and the Paul Nicholls-trained Hitman completes the line up. The Elliott-trained Mighty Potter has dominated the ante-post market for the Turners Novices’ Chase after winning each of his three starts over fences, including twice at the top level. James Du Berlais came home a distant last that day but tries his luck again for Mullins, who also has Appreciate It in contention. Banbridge is a leading contender for Joseph O’Brien as Henderson’s Balco Coastal and Stage Star for Nicholls head the home defence. Christopher Wood, Notlongtillmay and Unexpected Party complete the field. Favourite Thanksforthehelp heads a maximum field of 24 for the Pertemps Final, with So Scottish the early favourite for the Magners Plate Handicap Chase, which also has a full field of 24 runners. The Jack de Bromhead Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle has attracted a top-class line-up, with key names including Luccia, Lot Of Joy and Group One Flat winner Princess Zoe. However, Ashroe Diamond did not feature among the 21 declarations. The race is run in memory of Henry de Bromhead’s son, and the trainer mounts a strong challenge with no less than five contenders, spearheaded by Magical Zoe. Stumptown and Mr Incredible lead the way in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase with another maximum field declared.
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