This race had racing fans watering at the mouth just over a week ago with what possibly could have been the clash of the festival.
Day 1 featured races quick links:
13:20 Supreme Novices Hurdle
13:55 Arkle Trophy
15:05 Champion Hurdle
15:40 Mares Hurdle
Sadly, on Friday the news came out that ENERGUMENE had been met with a setback which leaves a spot kick for the Nicky Henderson trained SHISHKIN.
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The son of Sholokhov has flown over the larger obstacles since going chasing and has continued his unbeaten record when staying on his feet.
His victory in the Grade Two at Doncaster last time was arguably his most impressive even though his winning distance was less.
He toyed with his rivals by jumping efficiently and travelling smoothly throughout.
When challenger ELDARADO ALLEN (who re-opposes here) came upside him, Nico De Boinville gave him a slap down the neck, and he went away again showing a blistering turn of pace. He didn’t look to love Cheltenham last year even though he won the Supreme Novice Hurdle but I think that was down to greenness.
More experienced this time he will be very tough to beat.
ALLMANKIND has seemed to prove his doubters wrong since going over fences.
The Dan Skelton trained five-year-old only has one way of going and that is quickly from the front. Like a lot of the Skelton trained novice chasers this season it’s the acceleration away from the fence that has been most impressive. Even the times when he was ‘novicey’ his pace away from the fence put the problem at ease.
He does need to improve once again which you can’t rule out on his three starts over fences, but I think he will set the race up perfectly for SHISHKIN.
CAPTAIN GUINNESS has been a frustrating horse for connections seeing him pull up and fall in two of his four starts this season. Sandwiched in the middle of them starts, saw him get his head in front at Punchestown in which his jumping was still naive.
His third start saw him a well beaten second behind the aforementioned ENERGUMENE.
His jumping still seemed disappointing for a horse with a large build and looked to relish the larger obstacles. This quicker pace might give him less chance to look at the fences which means he may be more efficient but that would be taken on hope rather than fact.
Lastly, FRANCO DE PORT could see the race set up best for him being a strong stayer over two miles.
With guaranteed pace coming from ALLMANKIND Paul Townend can sit behind SHISHKIN and wait if anything goes wrong with the short price favourite. With a Grade One to his name already over fences I think he could be of each way value as well.
To summarise SHISHKIN will be very difficult to beat so I would advise a Betting Without the Favourite market and backing FRANCO DE PORT on the fact that he’s ran with plenty of credit with his chase starts so far and with the race ran to suit it could set him up late to pick up the pieces if anything were to go wrong.