Nicky Henderson hails classy Shishkin following Ascot Chase victory

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Nicky Henderson's gelding was at one point an unstoppable force in the two-mile division, but he was pulled up when the favourite in the Queen Mother Champion Chase last season.

A comeback run in the Tingle Creek this season also ended in defeat, but stepped up in trip under Nico de Boinville, he showed all of his ability, winning at a canter to cross the line 16 lengths to the good at odds of 2-1. With last year's winner Fakir D'oudairies beaten some way out, it was a duel between Shishkin and Pic D'Orhy turning into the straight. However, the latter had no answer when Shishkin kicked up a gear, with the winner now 5-4 from 7-2 with Betfair for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham. "Today was everything. If he didn't show today, we had to say 'look, we were very lucky, we had a good horse but we haven't got one anymore', but today we can say we still have a very good horse," Henderson said. "Good horses are good horses, class will out and that's what it did today. Bless him, he did that. "The whole game was different, he was on the bridle the whole way. That's what I wanted to see, instead of having to keep niggling, keep pressing, keep kicking. The first fence was going to tell us everything, second fence told us a lot and by the third, I was a happy man." The Ryanair looks the natural next step come the Cheltenham Festival, a race opened up by the withdrawal of Willie Mullins' two-time winner Allaho. That news broke during a media morning at Henderson's yard, but did not influence plans for Shishkin that instead hinged on his Ascot performance. Henderson said: "Some of you were down with us on Monday morning and suddenly the news came through that Allaho was out, that didn't change what we were going to do anyway. "We were just going to take it from what we've learnt today. The only thing Nico said there is that we do not need the Champion Chase, because the pace of that is actually going to undo what we've just done. "I think you've got to say that he'll be odds on for the Ryanair, unless somebody tells me that there are so many bad horses in the Gold Cup that you've got to run him in it." Of the chances of Shishkin taking up his Gold Cup entry, Henderson added: "I would have thought it would be pretty stupid, but I've done some stupid things in my time so far! "He's not in the Champion Chase and he's not coming into it, at least I can say he's in the other two. I would have thought the most likely has got to be the Ryanair, it's the sensible one." De Boinville added: "He felt a different horse. He was doing everything right at home and that wind op has definitely helped a whole load. "I said to the guv'nor we'd know our fate after the first two and so it proved. "I think just going half a stride slower definitely helped him and he was able to jump and travel and latch on to the bridle, which he hasn't been doing over two miles. "I was mindful that he hasn't run since the Tingle Creek and even then I don't think he had a very nice time. The most important thing today was to get him jumping and travelling and get him enjoying himself. "You want them to enjoy it rather than it be hard work all the time." Pic D'Orhy kept on for second, with trainer Paul Nicholls was not disheartened considering Shishkin's return to form. "I just said to Johnny (De la Hey, owner) we've been beaten by a better horse, end of story," he said. "I think he's probably run right up to his best, he's beaten Millers Bank and Fakir D'oudairies but he's not good enough to beat Shishkin. "We'll let him (Shishkin) go to the Ryanair, we'll give that a miss and probably head to Aintree. We'd have probably done that anyway as the flat track suits him better. I'd imagine Shishkin will be hard to beat in the Ryanair."

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