27th December 2019 – Leopardstown – I don’t think he did anything to enhance his reputation here. More he just cemented his position at the head of the Supreme market by doing as much as was required. He beat Embittered more easily than last time here; conversely the proximity of the mare in second place does little for the form.
1st December 2019 – Fairyhouse – He has not enjoyed as easy a trip as the winner as he was briefly short of room and also came from several lengths back to make his challenge; moreover his minor error at the third last came at a crucial time. He has then smoothly made a few lengths on the inner on the approach to the second last hurdle; unfortunately the winner has posted very fast times from three out to the line. This runner up has very likely performed even better than this appears in the finish as he has made up several lengths at a very hot part of the race and also immediately after that mistake three out. He appears almost certain to be Supreme bound so his price of 12/1 for the Supreme compared with a best priced 4/1 for the winner is interesting; even more so as the winner is almost as likely to head for the Ballymore.
2nd February 2020 – Leopardstown – This performance looked to be all about stamina rather than speed. He should be suited by the Cheltenham hill and a softer surface might be more in his favour against the speedier types. He jumped out to his right at many of his hurdles which has to be a cause for some concern with the Supreme Hurdle in mind. He will stay much further and it would be no surprise if we saw him in one of the longer races in March. He looked very strong as he strode clear under a heavy drive from two out to the last; however the juvenile Aspire Tower was actually quicker than him at the point of the race he appeared to be most impressive. Furthermore that juvenile matched his time from four out to the final flight. Cerberus stopped in front and was overwhelmed on the run in in that earlier race yet matched the performance of Asterion Forlonge from the last to the line. All the time comparisons imply he might be void of speed for a Supreme especially as that race is the first of the festival and often run at a ridiculous pace early on. These suppositions are supported by his trainer’s comments post-race. Mullins stated he “will want much further in trip and I will be going out in trip with him now”.
5th January 2020 – Naas – He was around 20 lengths slower than Envoi Allen over the final circuit despite the other one running over half a mile further. Might be worth remembering if they both end up in the same race in March.
12th January 2020 – Punchestown – He was keen last time and again here for much of the contest. He has jumped really well in both of his hurdles starts and I would prefer him to the winner once he learns to settle. Judging by the post-race reaction I will not be alone in holding those views.
8th February 2020 – Newbury – He was around seven seconds slower than Pic D’Orhy from the first hurdle to the last down the far side. He was then ten second behind three out, about nine seconds two out, approximately eight seconds at the last and around six seconds behind the Betfair Hurdle winner at the line. These types of differences are going to be common when comparing a big field handicap hurdle next to a much less competitive novice hurdle. The winner here improved for his debut run and appeared less green in the final stages; that said the slow early pace here means that he would have to show a completely different set of skills in a Supreme Hurdle which is very likely going to be run more like the Betfair Hurdle.
From the official handicappers point of view it would surely be difficult to rate the winner better than a mark in the late 130’s despite him looking like he had more in hand than the winning margin. His jockey only asked him for more approaching 100 yards from home so the fact he has won by more than four lengths is strongly in his favour.
13th December 2019 – Cheltenham – I suspect this winning performance was better than the margins would suggest. He has challenged on the inside which may have not helped …. Time will tell on that. He was quite green and more so in the finish. He looks like he will improve a lot for this performance and his next run will tell us more. His trainer says he has gears and will stick to two miles for now. He is quoted at 16/1 for the Supreme but I would prefer to see him again before even thinking along those lines. He was about ten seconds slower compared with Repetitio from the first hurdle until three out and then made up six seconds on the juvenile from there to the line.
18th January 2020 – Haydock – He was very keen for most of the race right up until the turn for home. He travelled best late on and probably took up the running too soon for his own good as he appeared to stop in front. If this is the case he stopped in very similar style to Pentland Hills an hour later who posted an almost identical time from three out to two out and then from the last to the line. If these comparisons are in any horses favour it is this one rather than the Henderson horse as Pentland is going for the Champion Hurdle and is rated 11lbs superior to this Alan King trained novice. Maybe it just highlights the difficulty in getting home when kicking too soon round here on testing ground as both of the front runners in the two races also stopped in very similar fashion according to the clock.
7th December 2019 – Aintree – He was extremely keen for much of this race and yet still managed to close the long gap on the leaders with ease up the home straight. He just had too much speed for the runner up close home and was well on top near the line. This was not a strong gallop and he might improve again off a quicker gallop. The third horse was a few lengths behind but is probably not especially good.
9th November 2019 – Wincanton – He was ridden towards the rear and was very keen in the early stages. He has made stealthy headway to join the two leaders after the second last flight and has shown real tenacity to prevail against a good class rival.
4th January 2020 – Sandown – This performance was very pleasing to the eye and also had plenty of merit on the clock. He ran a similar time to stable companion Eldorado Allen (runner up in the final race) from the first hurdle to the second last. From there to the line he was around fifteen seconds quicker than the 145 handicapper who was carrying 5lbs more in weight. If we took this one indicator literally then he could have run a few pounds above 150 here which would put him in with a strong chance in an average renewal of the Supreme.
As always, however, there is a lot more to it than that. He still gave indications that a step up in trip will be needed if he competes on a less taxing surface. His performance against Edwardstone at Wincanton on good ground adds plenty of substance to this notion. I would prefer not to be in too much of a hurry to mark Edwardstone up to Supreme class on the strength of beating this one when the Tizzard horse was competing on unsuitably quick ground on a sharp track. On the other hand one can understand why the Alan King horse was immediately backed down from 33/1 as that price was inevitably going to be taken.
There are a few mixed messages from this contest and ultimately it comes down to the market. In beating the 136 rated Jeremys Flame by six lengths he has done no more than one would expect of a horse likely to finish in the prize money in the first race of the festival Conversely that Gavin Cromwell mare finished well clear of Heaven Help Us and on a line through that mare todays winner would hold a significant edge over Abacadabras. Personally I would suggest that he has an extremely solid chance of finishing in the first three in the Supreme on heavy going. The quicker it goes from that starting point the more concerns I will have regarding his speed for the two miles. On goodish ground we might even see him in the Ballymore.
7th December 2019 – Sandown – He led all the way and jumped extremely well before drawing clear with ease on the testing ground. I would think he is more Ballymore than Supreme. He is likely to be close to that sort of level at least.
9th November 2019 – Wincanton – He briefly appeared to be dropping away early in the home straight but soon renewed his challenge to give the winner plenty to think about on the run in. The rain will have got in here and will make an impact on the day. I am not sure the rain softened ground was in his favour.
11th October 2019 – Chepstow – He has soft ground form to his name and may have been more suited to the conditions than most. He was strong in the market over the days preceding this contest. He got first run on the eventual winner and was still well beaten by the Hobbs horse at the line. The third home has won a few summer jumps races and the fourth and fifth came here on the back of small field wins in weakly contested events. Moreover the 11/2 third favourite was never put in the race with a chance. This form might still be quite good; especially with regards the first and second who were both hurdles debutants. Nonetheless, there is no harm in treating such early season form with a little caution until we learn something to the contrary.
6th February 2020 – Huntingdon – He jumped extremely well and looked very impressive in the finish beating horses with some winning form. He was in receipt of 5lbs from the fourth horse home plus the one that fell two out that maybe would have finished second. A strict line through that one would put Shishkin close to 145 and a line through the actual runner up would result in a 150+ rating given the ease of his success. He did all he needed to do and it is difficult to see how he could have looked any more impressive in these conditions.
On the clock he was around four seconds slower than the 127 rated Cervaro Mix from the first hurdle to the last hurdle first time around. By the time Shishkin jumped three out he was level with the Sherwood horse and at the winning post the Henderson horse was three or four lengths ahead of the 127 rated handicapper. I am not so interested in the pounds and lengths; however what this does mean is that Shishkin has fallen in his first try over hurdles and then won two races which have both been slowly run. Therefore nothing like the test that awaits at Cheltenham in the Supreme. He was promoted to 5/2 favourite in one book which is ridiculous given that he has only won a run of the mill novices’ hurdle and a listed race against just four rivals. The helter skelter of the Supreme Hurdle may turn out to be even more in his favour; however, on the evidence before us at this point in time he will have to show a completely different skill set from the one he has produced thus far.
15th January 2020 – Newbury – Predictably enough he was promoted to a single figure price in some books for the Supreme Hurdle after this impressive looking success. He was probably a little keener than ideal during the early stages though possibly not as buzzy as the long-time leader and eventual runner up. His jockey was keen to teach him after the last as he pushed him out strongly all the way to the line with a couple of smacks of the whip for good measure. The name of his trainer pretty much guaranteed that this victory would result in the market response for the festival. History has taught us that as the number one contender from Seven Barrows he will inevitably be very prominent in the Supreme betting.
We should always ask a few extra questions after a horse with such esteemed connections has appeared to be so impressive in the finish.
Firstly the third horse to finish was having his third run for a mark and made stealthy late headway after being badly hampered at the first hurdle. Shishkin, in effect, can only be judged on his proximity to the hard pulling and eventually eased down runner up Shakem Up’Arry who was beaten by another Henderson hot pot in Mister Coffey over course and distance on his only previous completed start over hurdles. With little else to go on – what if the Ben Pauling runner up is a three miler in waiting as his breeding might suggest?
As exciting as the winner looked in the finish, quickening right away from a heavily eased horse in need of much further does not necessarily add up to a performance worthy of promotion to third favourite for the opening race at the festival. It might do in time; however maybe not on what we have seen thus far. Shishkin’s profile is not too dissimilar to that of Fidlerontheroof after his equally impressive looking success in a Sandown novice event also run on heavy ground. The difference between the two at this point in time is that the Tizzard horse followed up with a similarly impressive looking success in a grade one contest. He clearly has more substance to his name at this point in time and yet is a broadly similar price to Shishkin for the Supreme with some firms. Maybe he will justify his market position after his next racecourse appearance assuming Henderson fits one more run in before March. If so I would be very happy to consider him for the shortlist.
Back to today and the 120 rated handicapper Le Ligerian won over the same trip an hour later. He was carrying 9lbs more than Shishkin and was about ten lengths quicker from the first hurdle to the last. Most of this advantage was earned in the home straight. The Hobbs horse was dramatically eased on the run in and eventually finished close to ten lengths behind Shishkin. (Le Ligerien followed up off a 7lbs penalty three days later)
It probably sounds like I am not taken with this performance; however this is not the case as I thought he was very pleasing to the eye from the last to the line. It is more the fact that it is always more important to ask more questions and require a more stringent criteria when a horse is artificially shortened due to the names of his connections. Without the Henderson factor and the hype over the previous few months Shishkin would probably be more like a 14/1 shot now rather than the 5/1 shot he is in some books. Even more so as his trainer suggested he may want an extra half a mile and his next race is likely to be over an intermediate trip if they decide he needs another run for experience.
There is actually very little strength in depth in the Supreme Hurdle at the moment. Even less so in the likely absence of Envoi Allen from the line-up. Consequently, Shishkin might end up on the day being the natural third choice behind Abacadabras and Fiddlerontheroof. Given the timing of this run I would suggest we should get another chance to consider his claims before the festival.
1st December 2019 – Fairyhouse – He has been held up a long way off the pace which has made life very difficult. He has not done a lot to frank the Cheltenham form; that said I would not be in too much of a hurry to compare this run with that last one given his unpromising track position here.
26th October 2019 – Cheltenham – He has probably enjoyed the most positive trip round as he was kept wide and did not compete on the front end until very late in the day. Consequently my best guess would be too mark him down slightly on his losing margin. On the plus side he has handled the conditions and finished close up with two decent sorts that have proven ability on testing ground.