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Hunting horn can get Shishkin off to a flyer at Cheltenham

Shishkin
Can Shishkin win Nicky Henderson the Cheltenham Gold Cup next year? - Tim Goode/Getty Images

I am beginning to think the gods have decided that, for Shishkin, all roads lead to the Cheltenham Gold Cup after his performance over 3m1f at Aintree last season.

Trainer Nicky Henderson is having a traumatic time with the nine-year-old’s programme. But, having refused to jump off at Ascot last month, it would appear it is his brain, rather than his physical fitness, the trainer will be losing most sleep over.

So, here is a thought. Rather than concentrating on galloping him at home, perhaps building a new neurological pathway might be the answer. If, for instance, Shishkin could build an association between the sound of a huntsman’s horn and fun between now and March, Henderson could pull off a trick before the Gold Cup.

There is a footpath which is well within hearing distance of the start of the race. And as far as I know, there is no rule that prevents Henderson from having someone walk along it blowing a hunting horn as they line up for the Gold Cup.

A memoir worth a read

I was drawn to the memoir of former trainer Gavin Pritchard-Gordon like a moth to a flame. Although I know “P G” only in passing, I have always felt there was a vague symmetry to our training careers. We both started well, but ended prematurely.

I now know that we also have our differences. He thoroughly enjoyed training racehorses, had a good time doing it, and likes Newmarket. In the eyes of P G, the high street “still retains its charm and individuality”. That really is seeing a glass that is half full.

In his foreword, Brough Scott sums up the memoir better than I can. He rightly highlights that P G has captured a “vivid and unique chronicle of an age that is gone”.

One Jockey Club member, occasionally known as “John”, was a case in point. He was furious when P G trained his first winner for him, because John, in spite of being chairman of the stewards that day, had ordered that his horse “should have a joey” and wait for another day.

Protecting the interests of the punters was not in the Jockey Club’s handbook in those days.

In spite of P G’s romp through halcyon days of the Seventies and Eighties, there were two bombshells I was waiting for as I devoured the pages. My fascination being in how P G dealt with and overcame them.

The answer was that they came very abruptly, the second leaving me feeling quite discombobulated. That, however, is for readers to discover for themselves.

But this memoir is first and foremost a joyful tale. My favourite passage is when P G recalls beating John Garnsey, who went on to write for the Daily Express, with a cane at school. It reminded me of the adage that used to be taught to schoolmasters. “You should beat boys on a regular basis. You won’t know why you are, but they will.” This will have undoubtedly applied to Garnsey.

Follow Your Leader: The memoir of a Newmarket trainer is a must-read for anyone old enough to read this column.

Underwhelming run for Godolphin hope

Who would have thought that an all-weather meeting on a chilly December evening at Kempton Park would have “featured” in the busy diary of Sheikh Mohammed’s main trainer, Charlie Appleby?

But that was the fixture earmarked to launch not one but two of their two-year-olds by Frankel purchased for seven figures in Newmarket within 24 hours of each other last October.

El Cordobes, who cost 2,000,000 guineas, was first into the fray in division one of the novice stakes over a mile. He raced prominently under William Buick until inside the final furlong, where he was done for a turn of foot and was not knocked about when beaten. Stamina in abundance, but not so much speed. Knock a couple of noughts off his price tag and you would have been very pleased with the run. But probably not what was hoped for when he was bought.

With so much at stake, Appleby might have been relieved when Kalidasa, a 2,800,000 guineas buy, was ruled out (self certificate) of division two, which was also worth £3,672 to the winner.

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