There are few tougher acts to follow over fences than Altior but Arkle favourite Shishkin made the perfect start to his chase career with a commanding success in the 2m2f beginners' chase at Kempton.
The six-year-old was winning the same race his stablemate won in 2016 and has been described by Nicky Henderson as his most thrilling chasing prospect since the dual Champion Chase winner.
Altior struck in this event when it was a novice chase and went on to win that season's Arkle, for which Shishkin, winner of last season's Supreme, has been shortened to a general 7-4 favourite (from 5-2).
Any nerves Henderson felt before the race were quickly dispelled, as the odds-on favourite bowled along in front under Nico de Boinville and jumped boldly before finishing 23 lengths clear of Mick Pastor. The race was marred by a fatal injury to the Olly Murphy-trained Sangha River, who fell at the seventh fence.
"You're glad when it's over," said Henderson, visibly relieved in the parade ring after the race. "You have to be pleased with that. He's enjoyed himself and I thought his performance was ten out of ten.
"He's quite showy when he wants to be. You can see what he can do when he jumps long but you pray he doesn't go too long one day and do something silly to get out of trouble. Nico was most pleased by his jump at the last when he adjusted with no stride at all.
"It was the same when Altior came here, we let him bowl along in front. We've had a nice school and I love Kempton, it's a great place to start him. I would think he'll come back here over Christmas.
"He's always been a good jumper and we were never tempted to go hurdling. I suppose he could have gone for the Champion Hurdle.
"He's a genuine two-miler and we've been lucky to train plenty of those. This is the start of another expedition and he was excellent."
Henderson confirmed Shishkin, who belongs to Gold Cup-winning owners Joe and Marie Donnelly, will take a similar route to Altior, with the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices' Chase under consideration.
"I'm looking forward to the season with him," said De Boinville. "These are the horses we're in this game for and you want to get it right. They're rare so you have to try to enjoy every moment.
"He's made a really positive start. He's versatile and you could step him up in trip but why would you want to? The programme is laid out for two-milers and you have to stay going up the Cheltenham hill.
"I love how he quickened away and flicked his way over the last two fences. A lot of horses can go long at their jumps but the best ones are quick when getting in tight and can really dance on the board. Coneygree was similar and that's where the quality stands out."
'Two or three of his leaps were simply beautiful'
Wow! It’s hard not to be excited by Shishkin’s sparkling winning debut over fences.
Yes, he started 1-6 and was entitled to win easily, but the manner in which he breezed clear of the 137-rated Mick Pastor really got the blood pumping. And that’s without mentioning his jumping. Two or three of his leaps were simply beautiful – big, bold and wonderfully fluent.
He looked several classes above his rivals at every stage of the race and remained in cruise control up the home straight.
Make no mistake, this is a seriously talented racehorse; one of the most exciting prospects I’ve seen in years. There won’t be too many keen on opposing him for the Arkle after this.
How's this for a chasing debut..? 👀— The Jockey Club (@TheJockeyClub) November 23, 2020
Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Shishkin, stars for the first time over fences winning by more than 20 lengths at @kemptonparkrace 🔥
Exciting times for @sevenbarrows and @NdeBoinville 🤩pic.twitter.com/lABXjBfChu