Ante-Post Armchair: Super Shishkin Lands Clarence House

Well, the clash we were all waiting for certainly lived up to the hype; to be frank, it exceeded our expectations as Shishkin and Energume delivered an all-time classic in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

The victory by the Seven Barrows representative was roared home by the packed galleries at Ascot, as Nico De Boinville lifted home the 5/6f in a pulsating finish to proceedings. It takes two to tango; and Energmene, who travelled strongly and jumped with aplomb in the hands of Paul Townend got picked up in the closing stages by a never-say-die attitude of Shishkin.

Between the two, Energumene was far superior in the jumping department; Shishkin was sticky at a few obstacles, but his class kept him in the contest – De Boinville admitted in the aftermath that he “thought he was cooked turning in”, but the pair took aim at Energumene after that last jump to record a famous victory. This sets up things beautifully for the rematch in seven weeks time at Prestbury Park.

Bookmakers reacted by making Shishkin a best-priced 4/6f with Betfair to see off the Willie Mullins charge once again in the Champion Chase. Energumene is now a 3/1 shot – so how does he reverse the result? Well, one school of thought will be that Champion Chase, run over a furlong shorter than the Clarence House on ground that could be quicker, could see Shishkin presented with an unwanted relative test of speed; the Cheltenham Hill will help negate that but the rematch will be an absorbing encounter.

Something that also needs to be factored in, is that both horses appeared to have a hard race; and there is always the small chance they have left their season behind at Ascot. Dan Skelton taking the ‘fresh approach’ with Nube Negra could be a wise move. His record over fences when competing after at least an 80 day break read 1121; it will be 102 days should he get to the Champion Chase and he could be a little bit overlooked at 12/1.

Job Done For Jonbon

Jonbon made it three from three over hurdles as the six-year-old won the Grade 2 Rossington Main Hurdle by three lengths.

On very tacky ground he had to pick up when asked, but ultimately got the job done comfortably conceding 5lb to his rivals. His performance divided opinion and he will now head to the Supreme where he can now be backed at 4/1 with Paddy Power; that sounds about right in my view, and on spring ground I wouldn’t be shocked to see his form go up a level. The bigger concern would be the preliminaries; he got sweaty and a little edgy before the tapes went up and so his temperament will be tested again with 65,000 spectators in attendance.

Tommy’s Oscar will head to the Champion Hurdle after making it four wins on the spin in landing the Grade 2 Champion Hurdle for the small Ann Hamilton stable. She only has four horses in training, and it is a heart-warming story. He is a standout 33/1 (Unibet) to win the feature on day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival and although he looks up against it, it will be an absolute thrill for connections.

Allaho In A League Of His Own

Allaho (4/11f) trounced the field at Thurles for the second year running and is starting to become locked in as one of the Cheltenham Festival bankers of the meeting when he lines up in the RyanAir Chase. He is now a best-priced 5/4f with bet365 to add another Grade 1 into his trophy collection and viable dangers to him are starting to look thin on the ground. I imagine he will start odds-on and looks to be in rude health at present.

Earlier on the card, Gerri Colombe (4/9f) produced a battling display to maintain his unbeaten record in the 2m7f Novice Hurdle. Trainer Gordon Elliott said he will head straight to the Albert Bartlett for which he is now a general 10/1 poke; I think he looks tailor made for that assignment. Thurles would have been a track that was tight enough for him and his stamina saw him home. The proper galloping test the Albert Bartlett provides will suit this imposing individual who can head to the contest with major claims.