Nicky Henderson: Shishkin has a great chance to get me off to a festival flier
Altior has the spring right back in his step, there are five Seven Barrows arrows to fire at the Unibet Champion Hurdle and the strapping Santini screams Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, but Nicky Henderson has hinted Shishkin – the latest potential star off the Lambourn trainer's conveyor belt of talent – might just be his leading hope at next month's Cheltenham Festival.
The Sidney Banks Hurdle winner, who had impressed at Newbury before then, has a reputation as tall as the Eiffel Tower and is a top-priced 3-1 (Betfair) for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Henderson said: "You'd like to think he'd be one of our best chances and he's looked very good. He's a genuine two-miler and it's a good race to win because it gets the ball rolling and the pressure's off – a bit! You can get some confidence.
"I think he's very good and he's looked that in a bumper and two novice hurdles. He looks very efficient and he's got to prove himself – this will be a much bigger test than he's had – but he's been impressive and doesn't seem to lack experience.
"He races professionally and then you press a button and it works, which is what makes life easy for him. It's a good gear change. I think he'll be fine on the track; he's a great mover with great balance."
Pressed for his best chance at Cheltenham when hosting the media at his yard on Monday morning, Henderson replied: "I'd love Shishkin to win the first race on the first day because that takes the pressure off and he's got to be one of the best chances, so you want to make use of it early. That'd be the perfect start."
Chantry House, a stylish winner at Newbury recently, is 11-1 with William Hill for the Supreme, which Henderson won with River Ceiriog in 1986 and Flown in 1992 before a certain Altior triumphed in 2016.
However, Chantry House may contest the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle instead.
"Chantry is a very solid horse – he's lovely, they both are, two great big types and I suspect next season they'll be chasing," Henderson added.
"Chantry was very green at Cheltenham on his first start over hurdles, but was foot-perfect at Newbury the other day. He travelled like a good horse, jumped like a good horse and went away like a good horse."
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