Nicky Henderson’s heavyweight Shishkin looks to land early blow over Willie Mullins’ Energumene at Ascot
- Shishkin and Energumene will run in 3.35 at Ascot on Saturday
- Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin favourite over Willie Mullins’ Energumene
- Veteran trainers expected battle in Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham
It may not yet have assumed the gravitas or delivered the sporting drama of Ali and Foreman, or Borg versus McEnroe, but Saturday’s meeting of Shishkin (Ascot, 3.35) and Energumene has certainly caught the imagination of racing fans.
So often starved of enthralling head-to-head clashes outside of the major spring festivals, National Hunt devotees will at last be treated to a humdinger of a renewal of the SBK Clarence House Chase with two of chasing’s heavyweights doing battle.
There may only be four going to post for today’s feature but the presence of last year’s winner, First Flow, adds extra spice to a contest which does not require hyping.
Shishkin will race in the 3.35 at Ascot in an much-anticipated showdown against Energumene
While many will see this as a pre-cursor to the Cheltenham Festival, with Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins — the trainers of the top two in today’s big race — each trying to strike an early blow for team morale, it is important to treat these prestigious Grade One races as exactly that.
Henderson and Mullins look set for an enthralling duel in the Supreme Novices Hurdle in two months’ time, given the hurdling ammunition at their disposal. However, there is a lot of water still to go under the bridge until the opener of the Festival.
That said, victory for Shishkin would bolster the home team’s confidence that they can perhaps compete on a more level footing at Prestbury Park following last year’s hammering and the set-up of today’s race looks perfect for Henderson’s star to capitalise on Energumene’s running style.
Victory for Shishkin would bolster Nicky Henderson’s confidence ahead of an eagerly-anticipated meeting at Prestbury Park
Saturday’s big clash between Shishkin and Energumene remains on the cards as the big two headline five confirmations for the SBK Clarence House Chase at Ascot
The Irish raider, a free-going and exuberant two-miler, looks set to try to dominate from the front while Nico de Boinville on Shishkin is likely to relish a generous pace to run at late on.
The selection was never stronger during the Desert Orchid Chase at Christmas than passing the line with his trademark turbo kicking in as the field turned for home.
That victory, achieved despite a rushed preparation, extended his unbeaten chase record to six and served notice there is still better to come when the eight-year-old’s handler can enjoy a clean run into a race like today’s.
Given Henderson errs more on the side of caution, it seems safe to assume events at Seven Barrows have progressed smoothly since Kempton.
Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins look set for an enthralling duel in the Supreme Novices Hurdle in two months’ time at the Cheltenham Festival
Blazing Khal, the 4-1 ante-post favourite for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, will miss the meeting after picking up an injury.
Dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll is top weight for today’s Navan Handicap Hurdle over 2m 4f. It is his first run since being pulled up at Aintree last month.
Harry Fry says Metier will only run in next month’s Betfair Hurdle at Haydock if the ground is testing, after capitalising on similar conditions to win the Sovereign Handicap Hurdle at Lingfield.