Shishkin can continue to live up to his lofty reputation by following in the hoofprints of Altior and striking gold in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, according to trainer Nicky Henderson.
The Seven Barrows handler rates the six-year-old – who will bid to give to him his first victory in the Festival opener since Altior’s triumph in the 2016 renewal – as one of his best chances at Cheltenham next month.
Since falling on his debut over hurdles at Newbury, Shishkin he has looked a potential star in the making, with facile wins back at the Berkshire track and in the Listed Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon.
Henderson said: “You would like to think Shishkin would be one of our best chances. He has looked very good so far and he is a genuine two-miler.
“He looked very good in his bumper, and in two of his novice hurdles he has been very efficient.
“He has got to prove himself still and this will be a much bigger test than he has had, but he has been visually very impressive.
“He doesn’t seem to lack experience as he races very professionally – you can press a button and it works, and that is what makes life easy for him.”
A late decision is expected to be made on whether Chantry House will join Shishkin or step up to two miles and five furlongs in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Henderson said: “I don’t know which way Chantry House will go, as he is in the Ballymore and JP has obviously got Sporting John.
“He was very green at Cheltenham and yet when he went to Newbury the other day he was foot-perfect.
“He travelled like a good horse, jumped like a good horse and he went away like a good horse.”
Henderson expects a return to a quicker surface to suit Challow Hurdle runner-up The Cashel Man in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
He said: “He didn’t like it much at Bangor the other day. He will enjoy the Albert Bartlett. It was a very good run behind Thyme Hill the time before.
“Better ground is important as it was horrible at Bangor, but it was the right time to give him a run. He will be fresh and back to himself at Cheltenham.”
With Champ’s prep race at Kelso falling victim to the weather last week, Henderson plans to give his dual Grade One winner a racecourse gallop ahead of stepping him back up to three miles in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase.
He said: “Champ is in very good form. He will have a racecourse gallop. We’ve been doing lots of schooling (since falling at Cheltenham) and he has been great. He is in cracking form.
“I was going to Kelso and that was off. There was one race left at Chepstow and that was hardly the place to go and that was three miles. That would be a way to bottom one, not get one ready. He will jump some fences away.”
Henderson feels a line can be put through the run of fellow RSA contender Pym following his no-show in the Reynoldstown at Ascot on Saturday.
He said: “He is not like Champ or Santini, one of those great big strong horses, and Nico (de Boinville) said he wasn’t jumping as he couldn’t get out of it.
“I wouldn’t see any reason not to go for the RSA. You have just got to write off the run as up until then he had done nothing wrong.”
While Henderson expects Mister Fisher to contest the Marsh Novices’ Chase, he has not ruled out keeping him at two miles in the Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase, having scored over the trip at Doncaster last time out.
He said: “I would have thought we would go two and a half and I would be surprised if we didn’t.
“We will definitely have a look at the Arkle as there doesn’t seem to be anything in England blatantly obvious.
“You might find the two and a half is the stronger race, in which case we could drop him back and I wouldn’t be frightened to.”