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The first round of Shishkin v Energumene did not disappoint as Nicky Henderson’s emerging star got the better of the Irish challenger by just one length in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot.
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It certainly whet the appetite ahead of the anticipated second round in the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, although our resident jockey-turned-pundit Ruby Walsh is struggling to see how Energumene can turn it around in seven weeks’ time.
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“There’s not a massive amount to find but everything looked to go perfectly for Energumene. He did tire a little bit from the back of the last but that’s to be expected from a race of that calibre.
“Shishkin was the only one to make a mistake and it looks like Energumene’s going to need him to make two to beat him.
“There’s also the possibility that it leaves its mark on Energumene and that’ll be a complete unknown until he turns up next. Willie Mullins did say he was quite tired after the race and that has to be factored in.
“Shishkin will know he won and Energumene will know he got beaten. They’re not cars, you can’t just turn them. They’re not humans, you can’t just sit them down and explain to them where they can turn it around. Horses are animals.
“My biggest concern for Energumene ahead of Cheltenham is that this race leaves a mark and he doesn’t recover until next season. Paul Townend couldn’t have got the fractions any better so I’m not sure where you can improve.
“It’ll be about who comes out of this race the better. Shishkin has shown in the past he can recover from them, we don’t know that about Energumene yet.”
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