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The opening day of the Cheltenham Festival is one of the most popular days in the racing calendar for multiple bets, and SHISHKIN is likely to be the banker leg in most punter’s accumulators after his impressive victory in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton. That causing a collapse in his ante-post price for the Arkle Chase.
Shishkin, who won the Supreme at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, did everything right when making a successful chasing debut at Kempton in late-November – and he was duly sent off the 1/3 favourite to maintain his unbeaten record over fences in the Wayward Lad. In the event, anyone who got stuck in at short odds never had a moment’s concern as Shishkin again jumped fluently before producing his trademark strong finish, powering clear on the run-in to win by 13 lengths.
Only three horses had run to a Timeform rating above 160 in winning the Wayward Lad since it was promoted to Grade 2 status in 2005 – namely Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig and Altior, all of whom went on to win the Arkle Chase for Nicky Henderson.
Shishkin is now as short price to follow in the footsteps of those illustrious stable companions, and understandably so. Indeed, this form would be good enough already to win an average renewal of the Arkle, while the large ‘P’ attached to his Timeform rating denotes that he is still open to significant improvement.
As the title would suggest, the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown is always an informative contest, with illustrious names such as Hurricane Fly (2008), Jezki (2012) and Sizing John (2014) all featuring on the roll of honour since the turn of the century.
The 2020 edition typically looked a cracking race on paper beforehand – the nine runners had already accumulated 14 wins over hurdles between them – and it duly produced another winner who looks sure to go on to bigger and better things in Appreciate It. He made it two from two over hurdles after barely needing to come off the bridle on his debut at Cork five weeks earlier.
This Grade 1 represented a much stiffer test of his credentials, but APPRECIATE IT still looked completely in his comfort zone throughout – moving up to challenge after the last and then forging clear under hands-and-heels riding to land the spoils by 9 lengths. The next four home were all unbeaten over hurdles coming into the race, so there is plenty of substance to the form. It was the best performance in the novice hurdle division so far this season.
An imposing individual, Appreciate It is open to more improvement and will be the one to beat wherever he lines up next. Runner-up in the Champion Bumper at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, he looks a worthy favourite for this year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
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Farouk d’Alene isn’t one for the accumulators, but he could be worth a speculative bet at big odds for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle after producing a stamina-laden performance to win a Grade 2 at Limerick over Christmas, taking his career record under Rules to four wins from five starts.
His only defeat came on his previous appearance, when failing to meet market expectations in a Grade 3 at Navan, but he was well backed to make amends at Limerick and duly got the job done with the minimum of fuss. Always going best in testing conditions, he took up the running from a long way out and just needed to be kept up to his work on the run-in to beat Vanillier by three-quarters of a length – looking full value for a useful effort.
Admittedly, even that form leaves him with plenty to find to win an average renewal of the Albert Bartlett, but Farouk d’Alene shapes as if he’ll be suited by stepping up to three miles in a race which can often develop into a gruelling test of stamina for young horses.
This race has been a good guide to the Albert Bartlett since the turn of the century, with Weapon’s Amnesty (2009), Martello Tower (2014) and Penhill (2016) all having completed the double. A thorough stayer, Farouk d’Alene simply looks made for the test and is well worth an each-way bet, with several of those ahead of him in the ante-post betting looking likely to head elsewhere.
* Odds quoted on the widget are Future Racing / Antepost prices which means that if your selection does not run in the race for whatever reason – you will lose your stake under traditional Antepost rules.
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