It’s been quite a while – 261 days to be precise – and there have been several false paddles along the way, but the great hope of British jumping races is finally back on a track. Shishkin, undefeated in nine starts to finish in jumps and a favorite in the Queen Mother’s champion hunt before her novice season was in the book, will be going to post around 2:25 p.m. this afternoon to line up for the hunt. Desert orchids in Kempton Park.
And while some thought Nicky Henderson was running away from a proper test for Shishkin when he was kicked out of Tingle Creek earlier this month, the seven-year-old will face a double first-year winner at Greaneteen – the horse that has landed at Tingle Creek in his absence – with last year’s annual Cheltenham Festival winner Sky Pirate also in the mix.
Shishkin gets 3 pounds from Greaneteen and 1 pound from Sky Pirate, which according to the estimable Operation Timeform estimates puts him one stone away from the former and no less than 19 pounds ahead of the latter. Even though he’s a little rusty around the edges after an eight-month hiatus, that should be enough to ensure he extends his current winning streak to nine races (unbroken after the only bump in his record, a crash during his debut in hurdles).
But Henderson, of course, has mixed memories of today’s race, winning it with the brilliant two-mile Sprinter Sacre and Altior, but also seeing both horses beaten while they were favorites, including the A cold afternoon when Sprinter Rite’s unbeaten streak over the fences was broken at 10 races in 2013.
After losing My Drogo, one of our brightest beginner hunter skills, for the season already today, the British jump could really do with an impressive success from Shishkin, whose Arkle Trophy victory in March put the The local team 2-1 after three Festival races, before a green avalanche crushed them on the way to a 23-5 clubbing by the visitors.
The big betting race of the day is the Welsh National in Chepstow, where last year’s winner, Secret Reprieve, is set to cling to favoritism ahead of Sam Thomas’ Iwilldoit.
For the second year in a row, the highlight of the Welsh jumping season has been forced behind closed doors by Covid, so there will be no Welsh voices to greet a third consecutive home-trained winner, after a 54-year gap up to Potters Corner – which is also in today’s field – won in 2019.
The terrain at Chepstow is mild after 19mm of rain on Christmas Day, another 4mm on Sunday and then more this morning, although this should clear up as the day progresses.
Tips for all races in the ITV program are here, with the action starting at 12:30 p.m. in South Wales and 12:45 p.m. in South West London.