Andy Holding reviews the weekend’s biggest Cheltenham Festival betting stories, including a win for Shishkin in the ‘heavyweight title clash’ at Ascot.
Billed as the race of a lifetime in some quarters, the pre-match build-up was akin to a heavyweight title clash in Caesars Palace - and it didn't disappoint.
Energumene had Shishkin seemingly on the ropes as the pair turned for home, but just as he appeared to be down and out on the canvas, Nicky Henderson's gelding delivered the knockout blow with the better turn of foot on the run-in.
Considering Shishkin made one or two notable errors on the way around, his effort was even more commendable. While connections of the runner-up will fancy their chances in the rematch at the Cheltenham Festival, it's still hard to see him turning around the form with his great rival.
For the latest Champion Chase betting odds, click here.
- Huge range of regular promotions
- 24/7 live chat service
- PickYourPunt builder for custom bets
What were the other big weekend stories?
The other big headline act over the weekend was Jonbon in the Grade 2 Rossington Main at Haydock, and while he didn't impress every observer with his performance - particularly some bookmakers - he ran to a career-high level.
Plenty short enough in the betting for the Supreme Novices' on what he'd achieved on the clock prior to his trip to the Merseyside track, the son of Walk In The Park finally proved he could quicken off a stronger gallop than he'd previously encountered. Although he probably isn't quite at the same level of his stable mate Constitution Hill just yet, he's certainly not one to underestimate completely come the Festival.
Festival clues to come in the next fortnight
If there were Festival clues aplenty last week, the next fortnight promises even more valuable insight, with trials day at Cheltenham next weekend followed by the Dublin Racing Festival seven days later.
Looking towards the later two-day event, it is hoped the Spring Juvenile will start to make some sort of sense to a rather modest-looking four-year-old hurdle category so far this season, with the likes of Fil D'Or, Icare Allen, Vauban, Pied Piper and Ben Siegel all set to take their chance in the Grade 1.
The Irish appear to hold all the aces in the bumper department and if American Mike, Facile Vega and Redemption Day were to all face the starter in the Grade 2 on the first day, the crowd would be in for some treat.
Facile Vega has the most appeal of the three at this stage. Of the novice chasers, the rematch between Ferny Hollow and Riviere D'Etel is another mouth-watering clash, while supporters of Galopin Des Champs will be hoping he cements his position at the top of the staying chasers table in the big Grade 2 on day two.