ITV Racing Tips: Shishkin to claim bragging rights in Clarence clash
A momentous event takes place at Ascot this weekend where one of the most anticipated match-ups for many months is finally set to take place.
The first ever clash between Shishkin and Energumene promises to be a belter. Both horses are unbeaten over fences so something will have to give. They meet in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase, a race whose recent roll of honour includes the likes of Altior, Un De Sceaux and Sprinter Sacre.
It’s Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins who are again supplying the star cast for this not-to-be-missed two mile showdown. Forget about the Champion Chase for now. This should be box office.
The Clarence House will be the last of eight races on terrestrial TV which starts with Jonbon, the leading two-mile novice hurdler, running in the Rossington Main Hurdle at Haydock, which also stages the Champion Hurdle Trial and the Peter Marsh Chase.
There will be four races from Ascot, three from Haydock and one from Taunton on a quality schedule that will be screened on ITV4 when it is surely eligible for top billing on ITV’s main channel.
The coverage begins on ITV4 from 13:00 and we have previewed the three most significant races of the day in our ITV Racing Tips.
The unbeaten Jonbon has been displaced as favourite for the Supreme at Cheltenham by his equally exciting stablemate Constitution Hill since his Grade 2 win at Ascot before Christmas.
Given the level of opposition to him here he may not be able to alter that situation but he can at least restate his credentials. The brother of Douvan has to concede 6lb to his rivals but should have enough in hand to cope.
There will be a chance to draw a direct comparison with Constitution Hill as he beat Jonbon’s main rival Might I by 14 lengths in a previous encounter.
This was the race in which Royale Pagaille, then still a novice, announced himself as a live Cheltenham Gold Cup contender when he won in a canter by 16 lengths.
He was never a threat in the Gold Cup where he lost two shoes and finished lame. On his one run this season he was second to A Plus Tard in the Betfair Chase but was beaten 22 lengths. Top weight again but now off a higher rating, he has to concede 11lb and more to his rivals who include Remastered, going so well in the Ladbrokes Trophy when falling.
Royale Pagaille may want the ground a bit softer too and will be vulnerable to a light weight like Empire Steel who was going like the winner when coming down four out in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby. He deserves another chance.
Let’s not forget that First Flow, winner of this season’s Peterborough Chase, who won this race twelve months ago is in the field. He will be a useful yardstick to measure against the principles Shishkin and Energumene, though unlikely to cause an upset on all known form.
Shishkin and Energumene were supposed to meet at Cheltenham last year but Energumene suffered an injury after the Dublin Festival and wasn’t seen again until Punchestown.
Shishkin is unbeaten in all nine runs for Nicky Henderson, Energumene is six-out-of-six over jumps for Willie Mullins. There is just 1lb between them on ratings in Shishkin’s favour and his greater experience as a two-time Cheltenham Festival winner can give him the edge at Ascot.
ITV Racing Schedule, Saturday, 22nd January
13:25 Haydock – Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle
13:45 Ascot – Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle
14:00 Haydock – New One Hurdle
14:20 Ascot – 3m mares’ hurdle
14:35 Haydock – Peter Marsh Chase
14:55 Ascot – 2m5f handicap chase
15:15 Taunton – Portman Cup Chase
15:35 Ascot – Clarence House Chase
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.