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Wednesday 9th February 2022
Shishkin Versus Energumene II: Could Ascot Have Consequences for Cheltenham?

Sadly, far too many clashes are damp squibs, leaving the punters underwhelmed and the sport of horse racing licking its wounds. Shishkin versus Energumene at Ascot wasn’t one of these occasions. Both horses ran within inches of their official ratings, leaving pundits and spectators amazed.  

Everyone is more excited at the prospect of round two at the Cheltenham Festival. With Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins entering their mounts into the Champion Chase, we could be in for another thrilling edition to the rivalry. However, the rematch might not live up to its billing for several reasons.  

Days Between Races  

You might be wondering why you haven’t heard much about a race featuring two of the best National Hunt runners in the world. After all, the best horse racing tips for Cheltenham and the rest of the season aren’t directing their attention to Shishkin and Energumene. Galvin and Gordo, for example, are receiving lots of column inches.  

Part of why the build-up hasn’t taken off yet is that people are sceptical. Ascot was one of the best races in the last decade, so the odds of it happening again less than two months later are slim. 58 days isn’t enough for the horses to recover fully, meaning they probably won’t be at their best at Cheltenham.  

That doesn’t mean the action can’t be or won’t be compelling. Different factors play their part. Still, it’s unrealistic to expect the Champion Chase to be run at the same level when the preparation time is minimal.  

Bump in the Ratings 

Inevitably, the horses will receive a bump in the ratings after such a high-quality race. They deserve it for putting on a show, but they also must deal with the side-effects – moving up the weights. Currently, they’ve been boosted from 172 and 171, respectively, to 181 and 180. That’s an increase of just under 10 pounds for both horses.  

Considering that they are already tired from their previous exploits, the additional weight isn’t going to do them any favours when the Champion Chase kicks off on the second day of the festival. Indeed, a couple of runners will be eyeing up their opportunities of an upset thanks to the Handicapper’s work.  

Chacun Pour Soi, Nube Negra and Envoi Allen are horses that hold entries and are very dangerous. Their odds of between 7/1 and 20/1 don’t reflect that now, yet everything could change if two tired favourites have too much weight to carry.  

Below Par Shishkin 

The final thing the racing fraternity will factor in will be Shishkin’s Ascot form. He wasn’t switched on at all at the beginning of the race, and it took a while for Henderson’s top gelding to find his rhythm. For example, Shishkin pecked at a couple of fences, leaving him with plenty to do in the last couple of furlongs.  

Regardless, he got up to the line to win. Not only that but the Cheltenham course is set to suit Shishkin more than Energumene, giving him an extra advantage. If this is the case, his rival might have passed up a golden opportunity to break Shishkin’s unbeaten record.   

As a result, his odds of 4/5 could be relatively long. Should Shishkin settle from the outset and jump positively, the gap between the horses entering the final stretch of the race will be lower. Seeing as Shishkin ate up the ground to beat Energumene at Ascot, he might pound his foe into the ground at Cheltenham.  

Ascot’s battle between the great chasers will undoubtedly affect the Cheltenham Festival festivities. However, the Champion Chase will be compelling viewing no matter what happens. 

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