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The first serving in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot was electric as last year’s Arkle hero dug deep to beat his Irish rival in the final stages, despite making a couple of jumping errors along the way.
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Questions have been asked how Energumene can reverse the form in the Champion Chase but Willie Mullins has a potential second ace up his sleeve as Chacun Pour Soi returned to form by winning the Dublin Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival on Sunday.
Speaking on the latest episode of our Cheltenham Countdown podcast series, however, Ruby Walsh admitted he can’t look past Shishkin despite having ‘both feet’ in the Mullins yard.
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“Energumene seems in good form, he obviously hasn’t worked or anything. We’re still five weeks from Cheltenham but he’s come home from Ascot and Willie’s letting him freshen up before he tunes him up for Cheltenham.
“We’ve had this discussion on some podcasts along the way, does Energumene reverse the form with Shishkin or how can Energumene reverse the form with Shishkin? You can look at it a 100 ways if I go faster, if I go slower, if I get in front of him, if I get behind him, if I get upsides him, if I try to put him under pressure jumping.
“You can do that a 100 different ways but then you just think about Nico de Boinville. So whatever Paul Townend does, it’s what does Nico de Boinville do and what Nico de Boinville does is keep everything very simple, he doesn’t complicate any ride at any time. He knows Shishkin has pace, he knows Shishkin stays, he jumped him to the front at the third last in the Arkle last year so Nico knows what he’s riding and that’s basically what you’re up against. So Nico knows he’s riding a horse that stays really well so whatever Paul Townend does, Nico de Boinville will do what he’s going to do and that brings you back to fancying Shishkin.
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“Then you throw in Chacun Pour Soi, who was very professional at the Dublin Racing Festival beating Dunvegan by 12 lengths. I thought it was as strong as Chacun Pour Soi has hit the line in a while. He was slowing down at Punchestown, I didn’t think he hit it that strong at Leopardstown last year whereas this year he did hit the line strong.
“Look, I don’t have a foot in the Willie Mullins camp, both feet are in it but I still can’t get away from Shishkin. I think he’ll will beat Willie’s – it’s going to hurt whichever way it is. I found it interesting to listen to Willie yesterday and actually listen to him talking that way last week about Chacun and how he was going to leave a bit rather than doing the extra bit with him. That’s Willie thinking how do I improve how do I get him to where I want him to the standard and to deliver on the potential I believe he has.
“That to me is why training racehorses will always be an art and not a science because people have to tweak things. I’ve just watched Willie Mullins do things for long enough to realise that if he has an idea, I’m not going to question it.”
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