‘I’ve no excuses but it was unlike him’ – Nicky Henderson perplexed by Shishkin’s defeat.
After the even-money favorite was defeated by Envoi Allen in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, jockey Nico de Boinville said the race “never really went right” for Shishkin. Trainer Nicky Henderson said “he never looked comfortable” during the 2m412f Grade 1 race on Thursday.
Shishkin, who had been highly anticipated to win the festival for a third time and bounced back with a 16-length victory in the Ascot Chase last month, surged to the top of the Ryanair market in the absence of Allaho, the two-time winner.
At Cheltenham, however, he was unable to settle into a rhythm and made a costly error at the third fence, but he rallied to finish second despite having difficulty finding racing room.
De Boinville said: “It never really went right from when the tapes went up. Even down at the start, he was just curling up on me a bit and sitting back on his haunches a bit. Then over the first two, he just wasn’t taking me anywhere.
“At Ascot I was able to jump and travel and dictate where I wanted to be. Whereas this time I was pushed here, there and everywhere. Davy [Russell] was trying to push me out into the car park and I had to switch inside him and try to get a run up there.
“He was just hanging a bit left and just wasn’t the same horse we saw at Ascot, but we know what he can do. We’ll get him home, check him over, get him absolutely spot on and I’m sure we’ll be going three miles at Aintree.
“All credit to the horse – he’s very genuine. He made an error down the hill and managed to get back into second. He had every right to be pulled up or tailed off – he’s a very genuine horse and we know what he can do on his good days. There will be plenty more days to come.”
Before being pulled up in the Champion Chase the previous year and having a wind op after finishing third in the Tingle Creek in December, Shishkin had never lost a fences race.
Nicky Henderson conceded Shishkin was never truly in conflict yet was satisfied with the manner in which he got done and is as of now looking forward to Aintree.
The trainer said: “He wasn’t really travelling like you hoped he would have been, even early on he just didn’t look as though he was that happy about it. He’s done really well to finish where he has – maybe I should have listened to all those people who said go three and a quarter miles, as he looked as though he wants it!
“He was going markedly left and that’s not like him. His last run was at Ascot and if you go left around there you end up in Windsor Castle, so he was fine there.
“He never looked comfortable, but look where he’s finished and how he’s finished. He’s finished really strong. He did make one bad mistake coming down the hill. He got back into it though, so he’s determined if nothing else. They’ve done very well to finish second.”
Henderson pinpointed the Betway Bowl over three miles at Aintree next month as Shishkin’s next target, and added: “You could say it came too soon after Ascot as it was a bit of a rush, but I certainly want to run him in four weeks’ time. Going over three miles in the Bowl is the obvious thing. At least it’s left-handed!
“We’ve got to sort out why he was going left-handed. It’s not like him to do that. He schooled on Monday and you’ve never seen a horse jump five fences straighter, quicker and more narrow. I’ve no excuses but it was unlike him to do that.
“He’s back and he’s all right and he’s finished his race really well, which was the encouraging thing. If he was going backwards you’d be very worried but he was flying home and he wanted to finish his race. We’ll take him to pieces and tighten a few bolts and then we’ll go to Aintree and look forward to him.”
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