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RacingBetter News
Wednesday 14th February 2024
Has Shishkin Put Himself in the Gold Mix?

Shishkin was successful in the Grade Two Denman Chase at Newbury on his final outing before the 2024 Cheltenham Gold Cup. It was an important victory for the chaser, as it was needed to convince his connections that he should run in the Blue Riband event of the Cheltenham Festival.

Under the hands of his regular rider Nico de Boinville, Shishkin travelled well throughout the race at Newbury, and when he was asked to quicken in the closing couple of furlongs, he stretched away from his rivals.

Shishkin had just four horses to beat in the Super Saturday contest. He got the better of former Grade One winner Protektorat, Hitman, Sam Brown and Does He Know. It was his third major triumph around the 3m distance along with the Ascot Chase and Aintree Bowl Chase.

Bad Luck This Season

Prior to the Denman Chase, Shishkin had failed to finish a race in two attempts in the 2023/24 campaign. On his seasonal reappearance in the 1965 Chase at Ascot, he refused to race. That was the first time in his career that he had been left at the start.

The experienced ten-year-old chaser set off in the King George VI Chase and looked the most likely winner until he stumbled after the second last fence, unseating de Boinville. He was on course to finish ahead of the likes of defending champion Bravemansgame, dual Ryanair Chase winner Allaho and the eventual winner Hewick.

Shishkin’s run of bad luck ended as Newbury, and as of the 11th of February, he is available at 8/1 in the Cheltenham Festival betting for the Gold Cup. Should he prove successful in the day four feature, he would hand his trainer Nicky Henderson a third triumph in the race.

Previous Festival Success for Shishkin

The Seven Barrows runner head into this year’s Cheltenham Festival bidding to win his third race at the meeting. He was victorious in the Supreme Novices Hurdle in 2020, while in 2021, he landed the Arkle Challenge Trophy in his debut season over fences.

In the opening half of his career, Shishkin was campaigned over the much shorter distance of 2m. He has since proven that he has the stamina for 3m and beyond. At the Cheltenham Festival in 2023, his connections opted for the Ryanair Chase over 2m4½f. Their horse finished second behind Envoi Allen on the third day of the contest.

The former Champion Chase favourite has won on various ground conditions throughout his career, so unlike some of his rivals, the weather at the meeting will not impact his chances too much.

Galopin Des Champs and Irish Challengers

Best Mate and Al Boum Photo are the only two horses to have won back-to-back renewals of the Cheltenham Gold Cup since 2000, but Galopin Des Champs will be bidding to join that list this year.

The Irish horse produced one of the best performances in the race’s history in 2023. Willie Mullins’ runner was involved in a dual with former King George VI Chase winner Bravemansgame approaching the last fence at Cheltenham Racecourse. He was able to find an extra gear up the hill towards the finish line to score by nine lengths.

Since that success, Galopin Des Champs has added more Grade One glory. He won the Savills Chase during the festive programme at Leopardstown, while more recently, he was the star of the Dublin Racing Festival, landing the Irish Gold Cup.

Galopin Des Champs will be joined in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup field by fellow Irish raider Fastorslow. The nine-year-old has had success against the Gold Cup winner, as he beat him in the Punchestown Gold Cup and John Durkan Memorial Chase.

Fastorslow had to settle for the runner-up spot in his most recent clash with Galopin Des Champs in the Irish Gold Cup. Martin Brassil’s chaser will be making his third trip across for the Cheltenham Festival. He has finished second in his two previous appearances at the meeting, including in the Ultima Handicap Chase behind Corach Rambler in 2023.

Should Shishkin prevail in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday, 15th of March, he will be only the second British-trained horse to win the race in the last six years.