SBK Clarence House Chase
|Grade 1, Ascot 15:35
2m 167y, Class 1
1 Shishkin 5/6F
2 Energumene 5/4
3 First Flow 16/1
4 ran Distances: 1l, 18l, 21l
Time: 4m 16.17s (slow by 16.17s)
Shishkin gets the better of Energumene in an epic renewal of the @sbk Clarence House Chase at @Ascot for @NdeBoinville and @sevenbarrows pic.twitter.com/FMtuIUK2fZ https://t.co/jrvnu4dMY2 via @RacingBetter— RacingBetter (@RacingBetter) January 23, 2022
Trained by Nicky Henderson, Shishkin looked beaten at one stage in the hands of Nico de Boinville – only to rally on the run to the line and edge the verdict in an epic duel that lived up to all its pre-race billing.
Energumene had set out to make all under Paul Townend and when Shishkin hit his usual flat spot before turning for home, it looked as though the Irish raider would come out on top.
However, Shishkin dug deep and despite jumping the last fence a length down, he still managed to reel in the leader and triumph as the 5-6 favourite by a length.
Shishkin was given a huge reception as he returned to the winner’s enclosure.
Henderson said: “It was built up and it produced. They are two great horses.
“A race like that goes back to the Grundy and Bustino day and he (Shishkin) only lives about four boxes from where Grundy did.
“It was important, it was a great weekend for racing actually.”
“They (Townend and De Boinville) said to each other going down the hill, ‘we are flat to the boards’. It had to be that, there was no point hiding. Energumene was going to set a good gallop and we had to keep in touch.
“There were moments it looked as if we weren’t going as well but he stays very well, he possibly does drift a little bit.
“The great thing is they’ve both come home safe and sound. It was a great race. Willie and the guys are all great mates.
“There’s going to be rematch. I always said I hope it’s a good race today because then it won’t ruin the Champion Chase and they will be back to fight it out together.
“Willie and I have both got jobs to do, we’ve got to get them back from a hard race today but there’s lots of time.
He added: “This is a battle, not the war. The big day is in March and there’s nothing between them. I’m pretty sure if we can both get them there together, it’s going to be a lot of fun. Fascinating.
“It’s special when you get that kind of build up, and it became very important – Nico said it gave him the best moment of his riding career so far, which says something when you’ve ridden Gold Cup winners and things like that.
“Today was round one and Willie and I have got to go home and get ready for March – that is going to be round two.
“It (Champion Chase) is no worse a race for what happened today. We won today, which obviously I’m thrilled about, but they went down fighting tooth and nail. It looked as though they had us on the ropes, but we got back
“Now we’ll go on to March, hopefully everything goes right and they’ll meet again and it will be another thriller.
“I couldn’t have him much better than he was today. Kempton brought him on nicely after the hiccup we had before Christmas.
“We weren’t going to duck today as I wanted the time between now and Cheltenham, rather than wait for the Game Spirit (at Newbury next month).
“I’ve now got time to freshen up and get ready for what will be another massive race.
“Fair play to Willie, who is an enormous mate and Nico and Paul are as well. We’ll go on and hope we can produce what will be another humdinger.”
Mullins was gracious in defeat, saying: “We have no excuses. We ran a cracker, jumped well and did everything right.
“Maybe Shishkin didn’t jump as well as we did and whether there is more improvement in him, I don’t know. I was watching my own horse, but Shiskin made two mistakes I think, so that would leave you to think we have a bit to go yet before we beat him. Shishkin is not too bad around Cheltenham You would have to think we are going to find it hard.
“He got in tight, but they are two-mile chasers meeting fences on a stride. I thought we jumped well enough, unless he was completely electric… but then if Shishkin jumped every fence as well as we did, the chances are he’d have beaten us easier, you know?”
Matchbook Clarence House Chase
£150,000 guaranteed, 5yo plus, 2m 167y, Class 1
Going: Soft, Good to Soft in places
1 Shishkin 8 11-7 Nicky Henderson Nico de Boinville 5/6F
2 1 Energumene 8 11-7 W P Mullins Paul Townend 5/4
3 18 First Flow 10 11-7 Kim Bailey David Bass 16/1
4 21 Amoola Gold 9 11-7 Dan Skelton Harry Skelton 80/1