Nirvana Spa 1965 Chase

Grade 2, Ascot 13:30
£70,000 guaranteed,
4yo plus,
2m 5f 8y, Class 1  
Saturday 25th November 2023


1 Pic D'Orhy 5/2
2 Straw Fan Jack 40/1
3 Minella Drama 13/2
4 ran Distances: 16l, 28l
Time: 5m 19.42s (slow by 7.42s)

Shishkin caused a bit of surprise at Ascot by refusing to start in the Nirvana Spa 1965 Chase, allowing Paul Nicholls' D'Orhy to claim the victory. The Grade Two contest, with just four runners, marked the return of Nicky Henderson's top-class chaser. Despite being the favourite with Nico de Boinville in the saddle, Shishkin remained stationary at the tapes, prompting the race to proceed without him.

In Shishkin's unexpected absence, Pic D'Orhy and Minella Drama took the early lead, with Straw Fan Jack closely following. As Minella Drama faded, Pic D'Orhy and Straw Fan Jack briefly contested the lead, but Harry Coben's mount surged ahead, securing a 16-length victory at 5-2.

“What can I say?” said a dejected Henderson, who will now desperately search for an opportunity before the King George at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.

“At the moment I can’t think of all of the programme and the pity is there is a three-mile hurdle at Newbury on Friday and I would run him that, but it closed this morning. Did I know this would happen?

“I don’t know why he did that today, it’s one of those starts where you are going away from home (stables) and the odd horse will do it. My biggest concern would be the King George start would be exactly the same. How could I guarantee he wouldn’t do the same thing again? But I can guarantee if I took him down to the two-mile start here he would fly up. He would be in the lead.

“The alternatives, I will have to look, and if there is an open handicap I wouldn’t mind running him, but as you know the programme doesn’t allow these horses to run very often. If only it closed tomorrow Newbury would be brilliant. 

“I don’t know where we can go and I have to find where there is an open handicap. I know there are no conditions races left and the Peterborough is too close (to the King George). I don’t know what to do.

“He jumps off every day, every day, every day. He’s a quirky character at times, but he will always jump off. He will never turn his head, never. He was in a mood today and he wasn’t for moving. He would still be there now. 

“I can’t read his head and I don’t have the whole programme book in my head, but I can tell you there are no conditions races left. 

“My biggest concern though is, if this was ever to be repeated, then Kempton isn’t the place to try it. That’s my biggest worry. I could say sorry he doesn’t need a prep, he will go have a racecourse gallop and he will be ready for Kempton, but that start at Kempton does worry me.”


It was very much contrasting emotions for Cobden, although he felt the winner was not at his best.

“Me and Theo (Gillard, Minella Drama) saw him (Shishkin) plant at the start and the one thing you don’t want to do is stop when you are on a planter, so me and Theo were not going to make it easy for Nico,” said Cobden

“When you are riding in a £70,000 race you don’t want the favourite to jump off do you. It’s unfortunate for them because it would have made it a horse race if he had jumped up, but from my perspective I was happy to jump off without him. 

“I was happy our horse got the job done today, but I don’t think he was anywhere near his best and he’s been a lot better than this in the past. But he’s got the job done. 

“I thought he would canter round and beat the other two on the bridle and not have a race. I was happy to get past Theo but when you have Straw Fan Jack alongside you, I would say there is a problem you know. I looked across and I wouldn’t say he was going better than me, but he was there. 

“There’s loads of improvement in him.”


1965 Chase
£70,000 guaranteed, 4yo plus, 2m 5f 8y, Class 1
4 ran
Going: Good

1     Pic D'Orhy 8 11-10 Paul Nicholls Harry Cobden 5/2
16 Straw Fan Jack 8 11-4 Sheila Lewis Sean Houlihan 40/1
28 Minella Drama 8 11-4 Donald McCain Theo Gillard 13/2
RR Shishkin 9 11-10 Nicky Henderson Nico de Boinville 8/13F

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