- Nicky Henderson says Shishkin is fit enough for the Nirvana Spa 1965 Chase
- Nico de Boinville’s mount faces three rivals including Paul Nicholls’ Pic D’Orhy
- It is a stepping stone for Shishkin towards the King George on Boxing Day
Nicky Henderson says Shishkin is fit enough to do himself justice in the Nirvana Spa 1965 Chase at Ascot, despite conceding the Grade Two race is a stepping stone to the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Nico de Boinville’s mount, who won the Aintree Bowl on his first try at three miles in April, is fitted with cheekpieces for the first time in a bid to sharpen his focus as he defends an unbeaten two-from-two record at the track.
Shishkin, who could have run in Haydock’s Betfair Chase, faces three rivals headed by Paul Nicholls-trained Pic D’Orhy, who he beat by 16 lengths when the pair clashed over course and distance in the Ascot Chase in February.
The Henderson-Nicholls clash evokes memories of the epic 2019 running of the 1965 Chase, when Altior was beaten by Cyrname in a race which left its mark on both runners. However, ground conditions will be much different on Saturday afternoon.
Henderson said: ‘I hate saying it is a prep race but it is — it is the road to Kempton. But Nico says he is wound up enough. He’ll be fitter than Altior was that day. He loved the 2m 5f here last season. I am sure it is the right place to be. It would be pretty crazy to go to Haydock. It is seriously good ground and you wouldn’t mind a splash of rain.
Nicky Henderson says Shishkin will do himself justice in the Nirvana Spa 1965 Chase at Ascot
Harry Cobden was directed to ride Pic D’Orhy, instead of Bravemansgame in the Betfair Chase
‘The cheekpieces will help him. I didn’t want to put them on for the first time in the King George. He has schooled in them and he was good, although I wouldn’t say he was electrifyingly different. It would be silly to experiment in a King George. If it goes right we are not going to take them off.’
Nicholls has directed stable jockey Harry Cobden to ride Pic D’Orhy rather than his 2022 King George winner Bravemansgame in the Betfair Chase. The champion trainer believes his runner has solid claims to overturn his Ascot Chase defeat, saying: ‘He is brilliant, fresh and loves good ground, which is massive.
‘When he ran here in the spring he’d had a few hard races and the ground was a bit tacky. He was taken on up front and things didn’t work out for him. There are a lot of little things that could improve.
‘It’s very important Harry rides him. He has had a few falls and is not an easy ride but Harry has built up a good rapport with him.’
Henderson was successful at Ascot on Friday with Doddiethegreat. It was the seven-year-old’s first run in two years, after he severed a hind-leg tendon.
Doddiethegreat runs in the colours of Kenny Alexander, who owned dual Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle. But his prizemoney goes to the MND foundation of the late Scotland rugby international Doddie Weir.
Graham Lee’s ‘movement has been affected’ by the spinal injuries he sustained in a fall at Newcastle, the Injured Jockeys Fund confirmed on Friday.
Grand National winner Lee has been removed from intensive care and transferred to a hospital nearer his home in Middlesbrough, but he remains on a ventilator.