Matt Chapman: Shishkin should be running in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham – plus by best bets on Saturday | The Sun

I'M a giver. I like that about me. It appears Nicky Henderson does too.

There's been a bit of banter this week from Hendo about my thoughts on the magnificent Shishkin, who is back in action at Ascot on Saturday.

I've been helping Hendo – giving advice you could say – with what Shishkin should do distance-wise in the future. But more of that in a moment, because trip is currently irrelevant for the former Supreme and Arkle hero.

What actually matters is just what ability is left in his fabulous body. Whether the horse who was once a dude is now a dud.

As many of you will know, Shishkin has had his issues of late – diagnosed with a rare bone condition when pulled up in the 2022 Champion Chase – and after a long lay-off returned in the Tingle Creek at Sandown with a tame third placing.

That’s not the end of it, as following the effort in Esher Shishkin flipped his palate in a piece of work and had to have that sorted out. In a nutshell we just want the real Shishkin to please stand up.


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Because remember this. In March, Shishkin was sent off the odds-on favourite for the Champion Chase.

Nine months later, we are told he’s as slow as an old boat and is a Ryanair Chase and Gold Cup possible without even being entered for the two-mile dash.

Quite honestly it’s absolutely bonkers!

And this is where I have tried to help Hendo. It's rare in the extreme for a horse who has won the Arkle Chase to turn out to be a stayer.

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KINONDO KWETU (1.50 Ascot, nap)

He is a winning machine and has been kept fresh for this race by trainer Sam England. He looks well up to bagging this Grade 2.

If Shishkin has merely not been himself, then there is no surprise he was ring-rusty in the Tingle Creek. Added to which, the Tingle is a sharp test, being less than two miles, and Shishkin has always been a strong stayer at the trip.

I'm not in the least surprised he was outpaced at Sandown, especially after a shuddering mistake at the Pond Fence.

Now don't be fooled here. I have no doubt a peak-form Shishkin will stay two and a half miles merely on class, and as such he would win this afternoon at a peak.

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But even if he does power away, the Champion Chase is still the race for him. If nothing else, it's wide-open, and he will be just about the only strong stayer in the field.

The Ryanair may have tempted connections with the defection of Allaho, but it's just mind-blowing that those closest to Shishkin talk about the Queen Mother's race in the same breath. It's a real step down on the prestige ladder.

Back to today's Betfair-sponsored feature, on which I will be reporting for Sky Sports Racing, and the probable hot favourite is defending champion Fakir D'Oudairies, trained by Joseph O'Brien.

This is a much tougher renewal than 12 months ago, when the eight-year-old defeated Two For Gold. However, he went on to Aintree and got the better of Hitman in the Marsh Chase, though that form is not as solid as it might have once seemed.

The other big gun this afternoon is Pic D'Orhy, who has really come of age this term, rattling up a hat-trick for the champion handler Paul Nicholls.

It was impossible not to be impressed with a stunning victory at Kempton last time and he's always promised to be a proper horse. He should give Harry Cobden a sound spin.

Matt Chapman’s ITV Racing tips


1.50 Kinondo Kwetu (NAP)
2.25 Revels Hill each-way
3.00 Petit Tonnerre each-way
3.35 Fakir D’Oudairies


2.05 Green Brook
2.40 The Two Amigos each-way


3.12 I Like To Move It

In other news, I was in even more dismay than usual with the BHA this week.

It was revealed at the Asian Racing Conference by chief executive Julie Harrington that one of the reasons new whip rules have come into play was to try and attract the 18-24 age group, who apparently, due to a survey undertaken, don't like horse racing and think it is cruel.

I've asked BHA for the questions asked in the survey, which is crucial, but had no answer.

The mind boggles. There are so many reasons why some of that age group might not be interested in horse racing, and that's a column in itself.

But the fact that upsets me most is that we just continue to chip away at this great sport.

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None of our leaders ever stand up for racing. They never tell the world how great the sport is or promote what is magnificent about it for so many people and horses.

Like Shishkin, our racing leaders needs some much needed va va voom.


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