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Henderson hails Shishkin as uncomplicated character after he bolsters Gold Cup claim with victory in Newbury’s Denman Chase

Legendary Lambourn handler Nicky Henderson has confirmed that Shishkin will go for next month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase after the mercurial 10-year-old returned to form when winning Newbury’s Denman Chase on Saturday.

Shishkin, who set off as 8/11 favourite for the 2m 7f Grade 2 contest, finished four-and-a-quarter lengths clear of the Paul Nicholls trained Hitman as he won for the first time since last April.

The Sholokhov gelding has endured a less-than-ideal time since his seasonal reappearance in November, when he refused to run at Ascot.

Henderson is backing Shishkin to give Galopin Des Champs a run for his money in the Gold Cup next month
Henderson is backing Shishkin to give Galopin Des Champs a run for his money in the Gold Cup next month

Last year’s Ryanair Chase runner-up looked on course to banish any demons on Boxing Day but stumbled over the penultimate fence and unseated jockey Nico de Boinville when two lengths clear in the Grade 1 King George VI Chase.

Shishkin will still have to make considerable progress if he’s to challenge defending champion Galopin Des Champs in the Gold Cup in a month’s time.

Henderson travelled over to Dublin to watch Galopin Des Champs secure a four-and-a-half length victory in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup as Willie Mullins celebrated eight successive Grade 1 wins.

The eight-year-old finished seven lengths clear of Bravemansgame in last year’s renewal of the 3m 2f Gold Cup and is odds-on favourite to defend his crown, although 9-1 shot Shishkin could well prove his nearest challenger.

And six-time champion jumps trainer Henderson is confident Shishkin can manage the step up in distance after being impressed by his success on Saturday.

"It's a funny thing because people seem to have given him this reputation as an enigmatic character," he said.

"There were two incidents – I was going to say neither of them were his fault but I have to concede that he can take the blame for Ascot, these things happen.

"He ran a wonderful race in the King George and had a bit of bad luck. There's no doubt in my mind that he'd have been first or second.

"We trust him and I thought he was good at Newbury. He'll probably turn round and prove me wrong and do something absolutely absurd!

"If he hadn't tripped in the King George the conversation would be so different.

"We're going to go for the Gold Cup – there's nowhere else to go. Galopin is a super horse but it's the Gold Cup and anything can happen."

A little over an hour after Shishkin’s triumph Iberico Lord made it a double for the team at Seven Barrows when he came up the inside following a superb ride from de Boinville.

The six-year-old, who was a disappointing seventh from nine at Ascot before Christmas, was second last in a field of 21 but stole in along the inside rail to edge the two mile contest from the Sir Alex Ferguson-owned L’eau Du Sud.

Henderson said: "That ride was as good as you'll see, even AP (McCoy) said that.

"He was very disappointing at Ascot and I was just thankful I had Luccia up my sleeve. That only shows you how good the ground must've been.

"Nico was very confident about choosing him (Iberico Lord), depending on the ground. Newbury did a fantastic job with the ground, we were anticipating really attritional, horrific ground.

"It was a fantastic turnaround and we were really pleased for him."

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