Virginia Considine’s star point-to-point export, Shishkin, tops a total of 34 entries for the Grade 1 Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase which takes place over two miles on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
Hot favourite for the race, Shishkin is out to record back-to-back wins at The Festival, having landed the Grade 1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last season.
A winner of his point-to-point at Lingstown in 2018, the Marie Donnelly-owned seven-year-old has looked imperious on his two outings over fences this season, most recently sauntering to a 13-length victory in the Grade 2 Ladbrokes Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on 27 December.
Shishkin’s trainer Nicky Henderson is the most successful handler in the history of the contest with six victories to his name, including with another graduate of the point-to-point sphere, namely the ill-fated Simonsig who landed the Arkle in 2013 for the Seven Barrows team.
The short-priced favourite could be joined in the final line-up by another Grade 1 winning novice hurdler in Felix Desjy, who himself is a Grade 2 over the larger obstacles this season having won his point-to-point at Dromahane for Eddie Hales, Sporting John, a Borris House winner for Matthew Flynn O’Connor, that finished seventh in last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, and Embittered, who finished third in an Inchydoney four-year-old maiden for Pat Doyle.
Such is the expectation on Shishkin to deliver, he is currently the shortest price favourite for each of the races at this year’s Festival and is top-priced 5/6 in the Arkle market.