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Weekend Review – Shishkin flies to Ryanair favouritism with Ascot Chase success

20 Feb 2023

Last week’s news that Allaho wouldn’t be bidding to win a hat-trick of Ryanair Chases at the Cheltenham Festival left a wide open market for next month’s race, with three of the contenders prominent in the betting, Fakir D’Oudairies, Shishkin and Pic D’Orhy, among the sextet of runners who lined up in Saturday’s Ascot Chase.

A clear-cut victory for any of that trio was likely to see them claim clear favouritism for the Ryanair, and in the event it was Shishkin who returned to form in style, scoring by 16 lengths from Pic D’Orhy.

As a result of such an impressive victory on his first attempt at the extended trip over fences, Nicky Henderson’s charge – already a winner at two previous Festivals – does now head the Ryanair market at 5/4, having been initially cut to 7/4. Interestingly, the 9-year-old also holds an entry in the meeting’s flagship event, and although connections seem to be favouring the Thursday race, he is also 8/1 (from 25/1) for the Gold Cup, and his presence in that race would add a great deal of spice to the Boodles-sponsored showpiece.

With the big four days at Prestbury Park drawing ever closer, many trainers will now be putting the finishing touches to their Cheltenham squads at home, but we still saw a few racecourse clues that could bear fruit next month. Oscar Elite made a welcome return to form for your Coral Racing Club trainer, Joe Tizzard, when winning the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot, and is now 12/1 (from 25/1), for the Ultima Handicap Chase, a race he was third in last year.

Joe previewed Oscar Elite's chances for Ascot in our exclusive blog on Saturday and he said "He's been jumping out of his skin at home, so I think he’s somewhere near the form he was going into last year’s Festival. We’ve left a bit to work on but hopefully he can get some confidence back here and it will be onwards to Cheltenham once again." so the hopes were definitely there and it was great to see the Tizzard team add a Grade 2 success to their CV.

Haydock’s opening winner on Saturday, Bo Zenith, looks to have booked his place in either the JCB Triumph Hurdle, for which he’s 20/1, or the Boodles Juvenile Handicap, and he’s 12/1 for that one, while Wincanton’s big race, the Kingwell Hurdle, went the way of I Like To Move It. The 6-year-old is another with options next month; in price order, he’s 10/1 for the County Hurdle, 16/1 for the Coral Cup, and 33/1 for the Champion Hurdle.

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