Ryanair Chase mooted as Cheltenham target for Shishkin

Shishkin after winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. (Pic: Courtesy of Cheltenham Racecourse).

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THE Ryanair Chase is the likely target for multiple Grade 1 winner Shishkin who is amongst 31 entries for the two miles and five furlongs Betfair Ascot Chase at Ascot on February 18.

Shishkin, a top class two-miler, won successive Grade 1s at the Cheltenham Festival, landing the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2020 and the 2021 Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy.

Nicky Henderson’s charge failed to complete a notable hat-trick of successive Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival when pulled up in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase last year.

The now nine-year-old was last seen out when finishing third to Edwardstone in the two-mile Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in early December. Henderson believes he should be stepped up in trip. 

“Shishkin worked this morning (Tuesday). We were all very happy with him and he is on schedule for the Betfair Ascot Chase,” the trainer said.

“The step up in trip is not even a question mark for me, it is an absolute necessity, and consequently we did not even enter him for the Champion Chase. 

“You would like to think that this could take you on to the Ryanair Chase [over an extended two and a half miles], although we also put him in the Gold Cup as we have come to the firm conclusion that he is a stayer, but we will see.” 

Shiskin is 3-1 second-favourite for the Betfair Ascot Chase behind market leader and last year’s winner Fakir D’Oudairies (13-8) who has been one of the leading chasers over intermediate distances in recent seasons, also winning back-to-back editions of Aintree’s Grade1 Melling Chase. 

Fakir D’Oudairies was second on his return to Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs in the Grade1 John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown in mid-December, before winning a Grade 2 at Thurles in January. 

“Fakir D’Oudairies is an intended runner in the Betfair Ascot Chase,” trainer Joseph O’Brien said. “We were very pleased with how his prep went in Thurles.

“It was a very hot race and should hopefully set him up for another successful spring campaign.

“He has been around for a while and has achieved a lot already, but he is not an old horse by any means and I see no reason why he can’t have another good end to this season at least.”

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