(2.5 minutes read)
It’s the dream clash those followers of the 2-mile chase championship have been anticipating for over 12 months. Both Shishkin and Energumene have been declared at the 48-hour stage for Ascot’s Grade One Clarence House Chase at 1535 on Saturday 22nd January.
It’s a fantastic boost for the industry and great news for lovers of the game as in most cases, these high-profile clashes are usually reserved for The Cheltenham Festival.
It’s extremely rare that Ireland will take on Britain with such high-profile entries at this time of the season and it’s something that has been desperately needed for quite some time.
Memories of the Altior vs Cyrname dual from 2019 might well be rekindled but this is far more significant: to have the top two in the betting of a Cheltenham Festival Championship race before The Festival is an absolute treat.
It's also a perilously challenging clash to solve!
We’ll assess the chances of both and guide in the right direction for the best odds from our partner firms.
Hold to your hats, this is going to be one hell of ride.
Comparisons with previous stable mate stars Sprinter Sacre and Altior are certainly being bandied around with liberal aplomb and even words like “freak” are being used in that most complimentary fashion, only occasionally exercised in racing.
Nevertheless, Seven Barrows have no doubt something special on their hands for this season despite the slight hiccups actually getting last year’s Arkle winner and 2019 Supreme Novices winner Shishkin to a racecourse.
His seasonal reappearance win in the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton was subsequently faultless and exemplary. But how good was it?
Beating the Paul Nicholls trained Greaneteen, the very convincing Tingle Creek winner, is not to be underestimated.
Let’s also not forget that Greaneteen was only 2 lengths behind Put The Kettle On and within ½ length of 2-mile juggernaut Chacun Pour Soi in last year’s Champion Chase.
And Shishkin made Greaneteen look very ordinary indeed in The Desert Orchid. The form is watertight therefore.
The cruising speed of the Henderson horse is lethal, the finishing power even more. He seems to have the heart of Sprinter and the head of Altior.
He will take some beating, but it will depend on how good a galloper his dangerous rival Energumene actually is.
19 lengths..18 lengths..10 lengths..16 lengths.
This is what Energumene has done to his rivals in 4 of his last 6 outings. The Mullins trained Champion Chase second favourite doesn’t just beat the opposition, with his relentless galloping action, he batters them into submission.
The way he swept aside his rivals in The Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown last year was simply irresistible. His seasonal reappearance 8 length victory at Cork over Captain Guinness, who is no slouch, was probably not as headline-grabbing as Shishkin’s but an accomplished display, nonetheless.
The problem for Shishkin is the possibility of giving Energumene his comfort zone by allowing the Mullins horse to gallop freely and not being able to do much about it.
Notebook took Energumene on in the Cork race and paid the penalty. Nico De Boinville on board Shishkin, will probably want to keep tabs on Energumene but no more, although he won’t want Energuneme to build the sort of lead that has characterised his victories.
Ascot is not a straightforward track to peg good horses back, especially if the ground is running soft.
First Flow trained by Kim Bailey is a very talented entry and warrants some respect based on his Peterborough Chase win and will be there to exploit any weaknesses in the front two in the market.
Amoola Gold is turning up for some very easy prize money for the Skeltons.
Shishkin is the current market leader trading generally at 4/6 (William Hill, Bet Victor) whilst Energumene is best at 13/8 (Bet Victor).
Very tough race to call. Both horses are exceptional in every department although Shishkin might narrowly be the more accomplished jumper.
Therefore, Shishkin seems the obvious choice as he has proved himself time and time again in top company but there is something exciting about the relatively unexposed Energumene who could put Shishkin in a tight spot if allowed to dictate.
Energumene therefore gets a very narrow call based on the value but this is a race to enjoy more than financially speculate on.
Please note all odds are correct at the time of publishing (8pm 20th January 2022) and are subject to change.