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Shishkin returns to winning ways with Denman verdict

The 10-year-old had endured a luckless campaign so far, refusing to start in the 1965 Chase at Ascot on his seasonal bow in November before unseating Nico de Boinville when going well in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

He was the 8-11 favourite to return to winning ways in the Newbury Grade Two and travelled behind race leader Protektorat for much of the near three-mile contest.

Around the final bend, Shishkin began to pick up the bridle and was comfortably able to stride clear of his four rivals to prevail by four and a quarter lengths.

Henderson admitted he had concerns about running on heavy ground before the race, but was relieved to see the decision to compete pay off.

He said: “The ground wasn’t anything like I thought it would be.

“I was rather hesitant but he had to run, but the ground wasn’t that bad and Newbury have done a great job.

“That is actually his first completed run since Aintree last year, he had a good blow there and Nico thought it would do him a lot of good and it will actually do us all a lot of good.

“He’s jumped very well and probably missed one, otherwise he jumped great. He just needed it more than anything else and we had to do it regardless of conditions.”

All roads now lead to the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup, for which Shishkin is unchanged with Betfair at 8-1 to provide Henderson with a third victory in the blue riband.

“I think we have to (go to the Gold Cup) because there is nowhere else to go,” continued Henderson.

“You could wait for Aintree, but no, that’s where we are and that’s what he is.

“I don’t think three and a quarter (miles) is going to frighten him and hopefully we have the starting bug out of our head, he was faultless there – even better than he was at Kempton.

“He was perfect there and we’re in control of him now. He’s behaving our way, not his. He’s like that, he’s a good character. Ascot was probably his fault but Kempton certainly wasn’t, unless you go and kick yourself in the leg on purpose.

“I went to Ireland to see how Willie’s (Mullins) horses were getting on last weekend and Shishkin has a chance – of course he has. I don’t see any point in not running and he can’t come back to two and a half because he’s not in it (Ryanair Chase) anyway.

“You have to be impressed with Galopin Des Champs, but after that I think there is an opening and the Gold Cup is the Gold Cup – you have got to give it a go.

“It looked like he was going to win the King George and that would have put him in the picture. But he’s won today and that definitely puts him in the picture – let’s go!”

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