Why Shishkin Should Run In The Gold Cup

February 21st, 2023 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

Hi there,

At last we had something to get our teeth into over the weekend, with two top-class performances from Shishkin and I Like To Move It.

Starting with I Like To Move It, as many of you will be aware I was very keen on his chance in Saturday’s Kingwell Hurdle despite there being no more than a 1lb on official figures between the three leading contenders.

I felt the decent ground and sharp track would suit him, unlike the extended 2m 4f he had been asked to tackle on soft ground in the Relkeel Hurdle over the New Year. On that occasion he had finished behind First Street and Knappers Hill, but on Saturday he beat the pair by 17 lengths.

First Street and Knappers Hill are rated 153 and 152 respectively, so the fact they finished with just half-a-length between them suggests they ran to their ability. Global Citizen, rated on 136 and in receipt of 4lb from First Street and 6lb from Knappers Hill, was 24 lengths behind them which also adds strength to the accuracy of the form.

If this is the case, then I Like To Move It ran to a mark of 168 or 169, putting him just 4 or 5lb behind the 173-rated Constitution Hill. That would give him a slight edge over the second favourite, 167-rated State Man.

However the handicapper evidently does not take the form at face value, having raised the winner just 5lb, from 152 to 157. In my view this underestimates his achievement.

I Like To Move It won the Kingwell in a very good time for the day and he has won three times around the old track at Cheltenham, which is the one used for the Champion Hurdle.

I had a very modest interest in I Like To Move It at three-figure odds on Betfair for the Champion Hurdle before Saturday’s race, also taking 25/1 without the favourite. He is now a top price of 25/1 to win – just 16/1 in places – and 10/1 with Bet365 without the favourite.

Of course Constitution Hill and State Man may have something left up their sleeves – they probably do – but if figures mean anything at all then I Like To Move It warrants an each-way interest at 25/1. His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies says that he compares very favourably with The New One and Khyber Kim, both of them placed in Champion Hurdles, and that he works very well at home.

Shortly afterwards we saw a hugely impressive return to action from Shishkin in the Ascot Chase.

It was evident from flagfall that the nine-year-old was on song, as he put in some superb leaps and travelled smoothly throughout the race. On figures he was entitled to win by 16 lengths – he was rated 10lb clear of the next best – while his winning time was comparatively the fastest of the day.

There has subsequently been much discussion about whether he should be aimed at the Gold Cup rather than his intended target the Ryanair.

Well, his pedigree suggests the Gold Cup trip would be well within reach. He is a half-brother to a 3m 1f hunter chase winner and a point-to-point winner, while his dam won three point-to-points and is a half-sister to a 3m hurdle winner.

His style of racing also augurs well for his staying. He certainly comes home very strongly in the closing stages of his races, as we saw on Saturday.

Shishkin is now nine, and if I owned him I would not want to see him retired without first attempting three miles or more, but the question is when? Nicky Henderson suggests if all goes well at Cheltenham he may step up to three miles at Aintree and then consider the Gold Cup next season, but as we know Shishkin is not straightforward and may not be right in 12 months’ time.

Rated on 174, the same as before Saturday’s race, he is just 1lb behind the favourite Galopin Des Champs and 6lb adrift of A Plus Tard.

It’s a close call but if I owned Shishkin I would be leaning towards the Gold Cup next month, assuming of course the horse is well and the ground not too testing. I would not discourage a modest interest at 10/1 with the NRNB concession.

I have more to say about this in the Cheltenham Bulletin Book. Please refer to the Online Shop for details of our services for this great meeting.

Bye for now