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Shishkin v Energumene round two could be 'even more exciting'

Nicky Henderson has warned that the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase is still open, despite Shishkin's epic defeat of big rival Energumene at Ascot – and predicted the rematch could be "even more exciting".

His unbeaten chaser was slashed in price for the two-mile championship event at Cheltenham in March and is now a best-priced 8-11 favourite.

The Willie Mullins-trained Energumene, who made the running in Saturday's Clarence House Chase and looked the winner for most of the way, only to be overhauled by Nico de Boinville's mount in the final 100 yards and beaten a length, is available at 3-1.

However, Henderson, who has won the Champion Chase a record-equalling six times, believes it is still all to play for on March 16.

"It hasn't signed, sealed and delivered the Champion Chase," the trainer said on Racing TV's Luck On Sunday. "It's going to be even more exciting next time.

"When it's as close as that, there's nothing in it. Willie and I have a job to do, which is to get them there in March for round two, and that is going to be as exciting as round one was, I suspect.

"If one of them had won by ten lengths, the Champion Chase might have become a rather damped-down race.

"We've got a bit of time. The timing of this race was very good for Cheltenham; it gives him time to have a couple of weeks quiet and fill up the batteries and then we'll start our Cheltenham preparation."

Reflecting on Saturday's titanic encounter, Henderson said: "Things didn't look great turning into the straight, going to the second-last, but this horse is pretty tough and he does stay this trip very well. He got us at it then, but we always knew he'd come home. Nico said, 'Going to the last, I knew I'd get him'."

The trainer also hinted at a potential third clash between Shishkin and Energumene at the Punchestown festival in April.

Asked about plans beyond Cheltenham, Henderson said: "If he's up for either Aintree or the Celebration Chase [at Sandown], which is a race we've always enjoyed with Sprinter and Altior, or Punchestown – maybe I'd be stupid enough to go and take Willie on in his home game!

"Whether I'm brave enough for that, I'm not sure. That would be the ultimate clash, to have an away game."

Reflecting on the race, De Boinville said on Sunday he didn't think Shishkin would get to Energumene rounding the home turn.

"If I'm being honest, turning in I thought we were cooked," he said. "What was going through my head was that it had been a fantastic race; both horses had acquitted themselves well and it was amazing to be part of it.

"It wasn't until he started to pick up and respond and finish off that flat spot and then really started to get running, that going to the last I was definitely thinking, 'The game is back on here'."

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