Shishkin ready to step up in Aintree Bowl

Three-mile assignment for Nicky Henderson’s charge.

Shishkin will step up to three miles in the Aintree Bowl, with trainer Nicky Henderson rating the April 13 contest as the potential “race of the year”.

The nine-year-old was a dominant force in the two-mile chase division until he was pulled up in the 2022 Champion Chase and after struggling on his return in the Tingle Creek, Henderson successfully stepped him up to two miles and five furlongs for an impressive 16-length victory in the Ascot Chase.

Shishkin was duly sent off the evens favourite for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham but he was slow to stride and a bad mistake three fences from home cost him valuable momentum, with the gelding eventually staying on to finish a two-and-three-quarter-length second to Envoi Allen.

Shishkin was a wide-margin winner at Ascot in February
Shishkin was a wide-margin winner at Ascot in February (Steven Paston/PA)

Henderson will now roll the dice at a longer distance on Merseyside, where possible rivals include Bravemansgame, Conflated and Protektorat, the respective second, third and fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, as well as the 2021 Gold Cup winner A Plus Tard.

The Seven Barrows trainer said: “The Bowl is going to be some race because everyone’s threatening to run. It won’t be a re-run of the Gold Cup because I can’t see the Gold Cup winner coming (Galopin Des Champs), but I can see the rest of them coming. So he’s going to have join in with them. It could easily be the best race of the year.

“Ascot suggested that two-miles-five-furlongs wasn’t a problem, so you’re going three extra furlongs on an easier track. So it shouldn’t technically be a problem.

“If this works then that will definitely tell us where we go next year. You’d be thinking about the King George or even the Betfair Chase to start with. And if the King George goes well then obviously you’ve got to think about the Gold Cup. But again, everything has to go right.”

Nicky Henderson with Aintree hopeful Shishkin
Nicky Henderson with Aintree hopeful Shishkin (David Davies/PA)

Henderson admitted he and his team have needed to address a couple of issues since Cheltenham, after Shishkin hung left throughout the race.

He added: “We haven’t found issues that we haven’t corrected and I’m hopeful he won’t do all that again. He shouldn’t. We haven’t done anything dramatic, it was more physio, chiropractors – hopefully we’ve helped him.

“He’s a horse that has in the past had a few issues. We had those issues and we got him right and it all came together at Ascot and then we slightly fluffed our lines at Cheltenham, which was sad.

“But he still finished a remarkably good second, having got it all wrong. So if we have ironed that out then we’ve got every right to think we must have a chance at Aintree.”

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