Champion Chase Preview : Tough Battle Likely for Shishkin
Day two of the Cheltenham festival is topped by the Champion Chase. Shishkin is the favourite to win this race and is likely to go off odds-on. A tough battle is expected though with both Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi out to make life as difficult as they can for the hot favourite.
Shishkin Out to Retain Unbeaten Record
Shishkin is trained by Nicky Henderson and is out to win at the festival for the third year in a row. 2020 saw Shishkin win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, winning by a head from Abacadabras. Last year the win was a little bit more conclusive. Shishkin was running over fences now and won the Arkle Trophy by 12 lengths.
Since then, Shishkin has continued to run well and has won three races. A month after winning the Arkle, another success came at Aintree with a Grade 1 success. Following that run, Shishkin had wind surgery and didn't run again until the Christmas meeting at Kempton. That saw a win in the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase.
January saw the second win of the season, this time the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at Ascot. This was a tough race though and jumping the last fence, Shishkin was two lengths behind Energumene but managed to get up in the final strides. Now the bid is being made for another win at Cheltenham and a bold bid for success will be made by Shishkin.
Can Energumene Get Revenge?
Willie Mullins is out to win this race and has the second and third favourites. The second favourite at present is Energumene who will be out to get some revenge for that narrow defeat in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot. That race was run over two miles and a furlong, the Champion Chase is one mile, seven furlongs and 199 yards. Energumene was ahead at the final fence so could this shorter distance work in the favour of this runner?
That loss at Ascot is the only race over fences that Energumene has lost. Last year saw this runner win the Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown. December 2021 produced a Grade 2 win at Cork before the unbeaten record was lost to Shishkin. This is the first time that Energumene has run at Cheltenham and definitely has a winning chance.
Now Win in England
Chacun Pour Soi is another contender for Willie Mullins. The big question for this runner is can the form produced in Ireland be shown in England? That hasn't been the case so far and many believe this is a horse that just doesn't like to travel.
Last year saw this runner finish third in the Champion Chase. That was disappointing as Chacun Pour Soi was leading going to the final fence but found little in the run-in and was overtaken by the winner Put the Kettle On (disappointing this season) and Nube Negra (decent each-way chance here). Back in Ireland the following month, all was well again and the Champion Chase at Punchestown was won, beating Alloha.
December 2021 saw this runner back in England for the Tingle Creek at Sandown. It was to be another disappointing afternoon as Chacun Pour Soi could only finished fifth and was described as "running flat." That wasn't the case last time out though with the Dublin Chase won at Leopardstown. Can the best form of this runner finally be shown on an English track, if so a win could be earned but most likely it'll be a place.