All eyes will be on Shishkin as Nicky Henderson’s exciting young performer bids to boost his Cheltenham prospects in the Betway Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon on Thursday.
The six-year-old is already contesting favouritism for the Festival opener, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, on the back of an impressive victory at Newbury last month.
Shishkin is one of five horses declared, and Henderson sees the Listed contest over two miles, three and a half furlongs as the ideal prep for the Supreme.
“I think he is a good horse, now he has got to go and do it again,” said the Seven Barrows handler.
“We are going two-miles-three, but that ought to suit him well round there. You have got to stay well round Cheltenham.
“Nico (de Boinville) mentioned the Ballymore for him, but I’m of the opinion of the two-mile race.
“He looked very good last time, considering the ground – you don’t often see horses quicken up like that in very soft ground and they tell me it was a very good time.
“He has done everything right.”
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Jamie Snowden feels Pacify has benefited from a winter break and is looking forward to getting him back to the fray.
Pacify signed off with second place behind the Emma Lavelle-trained Hang In There at Cheltenham after chalking up a five-timer, culminating in a Listed win at Kempton.
The two square up again – but Pacify is meeting his old rival on 5lb better terms and Snowden is expecting some improvement from his runner over the longer trip.
“We gave him a break on the back of his second in the Grade Two at Cheltenham in November,” said the Lambourn handler.
“He’s come back looking big and strong. He’s definitely benefited from his mini-break and it will be interesting stepping up in trip.
“He’s got to give away a 5lb penalty again, which won’t be easy against some decent horses, but his best form on the Flat was over a mile and six. The step up in trip might unlock a bit more improvement.
“He’s in great order and we’re looking forward to it.”
Dan Skelton is expecting a bold show from Shan Blue, who led to the second-last flight when third to Mossy Fen in the Grade Two Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick.
“It’s a very strong race, but I was very happy with his run the other day,” said the Alcester-based trainer.
“He was a little bit keen mid-race, but I hope he’ll run well. There’s no reason why he won’t.”
The Richard Rowe-trained Up The Straight, a good winner on his hurdling debut at Lingfield but well beaten at Sandown in December, completes the quintet.