Trainer Nicky Henderson has announced that Shishkin will move up to three miles for the Aintree Bowl, with the contest scheduled for April 13th being labeled as potentially the “race of the year.”
The nine-year-old dominated the two-mile chase division until he was pulled up in the 2022 Champion Chase. 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 then sent off as the evens favorite for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham but 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.
Henderson will now take the risk of entering Shishkin into a longer distance race 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.
Henderson 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 to join in with them. It could easily be the best race of the year.”
“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.”
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.”