There was a huge shock in the My Pension Expert Clarence House Chase as Elixir De Nutz battled back to beat Jonbon, providing jockey Freddie Gingell and trainer Joe Tizzard with a first Grade One win.

The race was expected to be dominated by Jonbon in the absence of El Fabiolo but he rarely looked at ease.

He jumped slowly in the early stages as Elixir De Nutz (22-1) helped set the pace, getting into a great rhythm under Gingell.

Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon eventually got on an even keel and coming down the hill looked set to stamp his authority on the race.

However, the 1-4 favourite, ridden by James Bowen for the first time, ploughed through the fourth last, almost getting rid of Bowen and losing all momentum.

To his credit Jonbon looked to have done enough to triumph heading to the final fence but he again jumped poorly, allowing Elixir De Nutz and Gingell another chance and they took it with both hands, winning by a neck.

Gingell is the son of Tizzard’s late sister, Kim, and is already in demand with champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

Jeriko Du Reponet maintained his unbeaten record in the SBK Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster, but he was made to pull out all the stops in the process.

Sent off the 4-6 favourite, Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old was expected to book his ticket for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with the minimum of fuss following two effortless wins at Newbury.

He was in deeper company on this occasion though, with Ben Pauling’s Fiercely Proud and Sam Thomas’ Lump Sum also unbeaten over hurdles and Nicky Richards’ The Kalooki Kid a dual winner too.

The Grade Two was supposed to have been run at Haydock last week, without Jeriko Du Reponet, but as the race was rescheduled, Henderson rerouted his charge and Mark Walsh travelled from Ireland for the ride.

He travelled into the race supremely well, despite a few sketchy leaps, but still looked like winning quite comfortably.

However, Fiercely Proud lived up to his name and battled on gamely and then Lump Sum laid down the final challenge before Jeriko Du Reponet settled matters by a length and a quarter.

The bookmakers were not impressed, though, and Betfair pushed the winner out to 8-1 from 5s for the Supreme.

Walsh felt a slow early pace had gone against his mount and expects Jeriko Du Reponet to improve for the experience.

He said: “We went no gallop early, which didn’t suit, and he didn’t even jump great early considering we were going so slow.

“When we picked up going into the straight, he was electric over the last three (hurdles). Early on he was a bit sloppy, but I think that was because he thought he was just going round for a school.

“The race wasn’t run to suit, we went too slow and it turned into a sprint, that was the reading I got.

“In his other races he was just cantering around, but he really had to fight today and he put his head down when I wanted him.

“He’s a lovely horse, he can only beat what’s in front of him and he showed a good attitude.

“He’s only five and I think he’ll keep improving.”

Sir Gino produced a startling display to burst the Burdett Road bubble in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Nicky Henderson’s imposing youngster had impressed many on his hurdling debut at Kempton but he faced a different calibre of opponent this time in Royal Ascot winner Burdett Road.

James Owen’s charge had shown a liking for hurdles in two previous wins over obstacles and Harry Cobden was eager to anchor him at the back of the pack as his mount was keen on his first run since November.

The big two closed in on long-time leader Milan Tino turning into the straight and while Burdett Road was still travelling strongly, when James Bowen asked Sir Gino to quicken he took two lengths out of his main rival.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the race, however, was after the last when the 5-4 chance sprinted 10 lengths clear of the 6-5 favourite.

Sir Gino is now Betfair’s 6-4 favourite for the Triumph Hurdle from 9-2.

Nicky Henderson’s Marie’s Rock is given another chance to advertise her staying talents in the rearranged SBK Warfield Mares’ Hurdle at Doncaster on Sunday.

The extended three-mile contest was originally scheduled for Ascot last Saturday before the cold snap forced a switch to Town Moor and Marie’s Rock’s owners, Middleham Park Racing, are thrilled their star mare gets the opportunity to run in a Grade Two event worth over £25,000 to the winner.

Her previous forays up to a staying trip have ended in defeat, but Middleham Park’s Tom Palin believes she has shown enough promise at the distance to be a major player in a race that also features Dan Skelton’s West Balboa, who was sent off favourite for the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle last month.

He said: “We’re very grateful for the fact that this race is going ahead. It looks a good opportunity for us to go back up to three miles.

“I do concede three miles is probably not her optimum and most effective trip – her championship trip. But that’s not to say she is ineffective over three miles and her ratings for her previous tries suggest she is capable of putting in a performance in the mid-to-high 140s, which in theory should see her competitive in this race.

“I don’t think she doesn’t stay it, she showed at Aintree she can get the trip. Is she a Grade One Stayers’ Hurdle contender over three miles? No. And that is why we are targeting the Mares’ Hurdle again at Cheltenham and is the only Festival entry she has got.

“However, I do think she is worth another crack at three miles in this Grade and amongst this company.”

The Cheltenham Festival winner was last seen chasing home Bob Olinger when defending her Relkeel Hurdle crown at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, with connections content with the nine-year-old’s display against an on-song rival.

“I think we were as good as a Marie’s Rock aged nine could be last time against a resurgent Bob Olinger,” continued Palin.

“I wouldn’t have changed anything, almost nothing at all, about our Relkeel run – I think we did as well as we could and I would be supporting Bob Olinger wherever he runs next, that was a ridiculous performance from him.

“I thought we ran a really respectable race there and a repeat of that Relkeel performance should be enough to see her competitive here and to finish in the first five in a Mares’ Hurdle.

“You have to give West Balboa plenty of respect, she was backed into favouritism in the Long Walk. But we were backed into favouritism at Newbury, so it will be an interesting battle between them. We’re going to Doncaster full of hope we have found the right race for her and if everything goes to plan she should be competitive.”

Marie’s Rock is joined by a pair of Seven Barrows stablemates in Theatre Glory and Tweed Skirt, while Jamie Snowden’s Cheltenham Festival winner You Wear It Well tries three miles for the first time having finished well held in third in the Fighting Fifth last month.

Fergal O’Brien’s Dysart Enos will continue inching her way towards the Cheltenham Festival in the opening Download The At The Races App Novices’ Hurdle.

Amongst the favourites for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park in March, the six-year-old has done nothing but impress when maintaining her unbeaten record over hurdles this season.

She has now been found a fantastic opening to bank some more experience ahead of National Hunt’s showpiece meeting in just over six weeks’ time.

O’Brien said: “Neil (Jukes, race planner) can take all the credit for plotting this one and hopefully it’s a good opportunity for her to go and run without many penalties and she can turn up there and run her race and then look forward to the next one.

“I’ve been very happy with her since her last run, but more importantly Tom Broughton who rides her all the time says she is ready to go, so we will head to Doncaster on Sunday.

“I’ll probably be watching it from behind my fingers or behind a sofa somewhere and there won’t be a lot of pleasure in watching it, but we just need to get on and run her and I’m never afraid to get beat.

“You never know what is going to turn up on the day and we’ve just got to go and take our chance and hopefully do what we need to do.”

Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon bids to continue a fine season in the My Pension Expert Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday.

The eight-year-old has won both starts this term, taking the Shloer Chase by nine and a half lengths ahead of Edwardstone on his seasonal debut in November.

He then went to Sandown for the Tingle Creek, beating the same rival again to claim a two-and-three-quarter-length victory on heavy ground.

Nico de Boinville took the ride on both occasions to deputise for Jonbon’s usual rider Aidan Coleman, who is out injured, but De Boinville himself is now on the sidelines and James Bowen has been called up in his absence.

The contest was scheduled to take place at Ascot last weekend but when the meeting was called off due to frost, Cheltenham became the alternative host, scuppering an anticipated clash with Willie Mullins’ El Fabiolo.

Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said: “Nicky is very happy with him and we’re hoping for a good run and that all goes well. We’re looking forward to him.

“It will be nice ground there and it can only be a benefit to him to get some more Cheltenham experience.

“James is riding really well and riding plenty of winners and we’re looking forward to seeing him riding him.”

Henderson added via his Unibet blog: “It is a job well done by the Jockey Club and the British Horseracing Authority to get this race restaged and we are very happy to be taking part.

“Unfortunately, it’s not the clash we all wanted with El Fabiolo, but Jonbon is there and in great form at home.

“James has done plenty of schooling on him, primarily because we had him on standby for Ascot in case Nico wasn’t back in time, but as it was the race was off anyway. Hopefully this will set him up nicely for the Festival.”

Jonbon will face four rivals, amongst them Gary Moore’s Editeur Du Gite – fourth behind him in the Shloer and the winner of the Desert Orchid last time out.

Elixir De Nutz, third in the Desert Orchid and the winner of the Haldon Gold Cup, is also running for Joe Tizzard and Freddie Gingell.

Richard Hobson’s Fugitif, winner of the December Gold Cup at the track, is set to be ridden by Gavin Sheehan as Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra completes the field.

In-form Harry Derham is targeting the Betfair Hurdle with former smart Flat performer Brentford Hope.

Third in the Gerry Feilden to Hansard last time out, Derham has kept his powder dry, resisting the temptation to run the seven-year-old at Christmas.

Brentford Hope is one of 33 left in contention for the valuable contest, for which the sponsors make Nicky Henderson’s Luccia their 7-1 favourite with Brentford Hope a 10-1 chance.

“The Betfair Hurdle is very much the plan for Brentford Hope, we’ve had it in the back of our minds all season,” said Derham.

“Obviously, he has run very well around Newbury previously, we were thinking about running him at Christmas, but we decided to keep him fresh.

“These big handicaps take a lot of winning, we wanted to have him as fresh and well and in as good a form as possible going into a race like this.

“He’s training well, he’s got a few strong pieces of work to go between now and then, but we are very much planning to go and very much looking forward to it.”

Kerry Lee’s Nemean Lion is at the head of the weights, while Willie Mullins has left in Ocastle des Mottes, Alvaniy and Onlyamatteroftime.

Connections of Jonbon are excited about the prospect of again locking horns with El Fabiolo, with the Clarence House Chase now just over a week away.

The Ascot Grade One was nominated as the next target by both camps after winning their pre-Christmas assignments and neither team is backing down from the challenge just yet, with the two major players of the two-mile chasing division poised to clash for a third time.

It was Nicky Henderson’s charge who gained the upper hand at Aintree in the duo’s novice hurdling days, but El Fabiolo excelled during a novice chasing campaign that saw Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old claim Grade One glory at the Dublin, Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals.

With the scoreline locked at one each, many thought the rubber match would come in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but now the scene seems set for a repeat of Energumene’s titanic clash with Shishkin in early 2022, with the Jonbon camp relishing a blockbuster showdown.

“The horse is in great form, Nicky is very happy with him and we’re all looking forward to the race,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.

“It should be a cracking race and we’re looking forward to it.”

All has gone swimmingly for Jonbon so far this term and having returned with a dazzling display in Cheltenham’s Shloer Chase, he showed he has the ability to grind out results when conditions are against him when producing a gritty performance to win the Tingle Creek last month.

Jonbon was ridden in both of those victories by Nico de Boinville, but with the Seven Barrows number one on the sidelines with a collarbone injury and former partner Aidan Coleman still recovering from the serious knee injury suffered last summer, the eight-year-old is likely to have a new man in the saddle for the Clarence House.

James Bowen has proved a more than able deputy aboard the Henderson string in De Boinville’s absence, but Berry says no jockey decision has been made yet for Jonbon with the trainer set to have crucial input.

He added: “I’m not sure at the moment (who will ride) and we’ll leave that up to Nicky.”

National Hunt superstar Constitution Hill heads 22 entries for the Unibet Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Nicky Henderson’s unbeaten charge was a nine-length winner of the hurdles highlight at Prestbury Park last year, one of his eight victories under rules to date.

Constitution Hill is already long odds-on for a repeat on March 12, having made a faultless return in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The Willie Mullins-trained State Man chased him home last year and he is among seven contenders for the trainer this time around.

Lossiemouth, winner of the Triumph Hurdle last term, features in the Closutton squad along with 2023 Champion Hurdle fourth Vauban, Echoes In Rain, Gala Marceau, Impaire Et Passe and Zarak The Brave.

Zanahiyr was third behind Constitution Hill 12 months ago and he has been entered by Gordon Elliott, with stablemates Irish Point and Pied Piper also on the list.

Henderson has alternates in First Street, Under Control and Luccia, while four-year-old Burdett Road is an intriguing entry for James Owen.

Harry Fry’s Love Envoi, the Henry de Bromhead-trained Bob Olinger and popular veteran Not So Sleepy are others of note.

The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle takes place on the same day as the Champion Hurdle and Lossiemouth, Echoes In Rain, Gala Marceau, Love Envoi and Luccia are all entered for that Grade One.

Ashroe Diamond, Magical Zoe and Jetara are others towards the head of the betting, with Jamie Snowden’s You Wear It Well looking for a second Festival win after taking the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle last term.

A total of 25 have been entered for that race – a number which is surpassed by the 36 initial contenders for the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.

Run on March 14, the three-mile contest has a clutch of previous winners in the potential line-up, with Elliott’s 2023 hero Sire Du Berlais, Gavin Cromwell’s dual victor Flooring Porter and 2019 winner Paisley Park all potentially coming back for more.

Teahupoo and Irish Point are other key contenders for Elliott, with potential French raider Theleme prominent in the betting having won an Auteuil Grade One in November.

Crambo and Sir Gerhard are in the mix, with the Lucinda Russell-trained Ahoy Senor an interesting possible after a couple of disappointing chase starts this term.

Connections of Marie’s Rock appear to have abandoned ambitions of conquering the staying hurdling division in favour of another crack at the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Her previous attempts at three miles have proved fruitless, but the team behind Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old have always felt they needed further evidence over a staying distance before completely giving up on the Stayers’ Hurdle dream.

A run in the Cleeve Hurdle later in the month was mooted as the potential acid test of her staying credentials, but following a seven-length defeat by a resurgent Bob Olinger when trying to defend her Relkeel Hurdle crown, attentions will be turned to another run over two and a half miles at the Festival in March and an attempt to win the mares’ only Grade One for a second time.

“I think she ran a Marie’s Rock race. They went a good enough gallop. James (Bowen) was very happy with how she settled and she jumped very well,” said Middleham Park’s National Hunt racing manager Tom Palin.

“I think we were just beaten by a resurgent Bob Olinger and you can do nothing but tip your cap and go ‘well played’.

“We were discussing about going three miles again, but I would say at this point we are going to go for the Mares’ Hurdle. That would be the hot take, if you were.

“I think this tells us we should be looking back to what we know and to go and try to win the Mares’ Hurdle again. Hopefully, we get a truer-run race in it this year.”

Although surrendering her Relkeel crown to Henry de Bromhead’s on-song raider, the Middleham Park Racing team were pleased with Marie’s Rock’s efforts at Prestbury Park and will now return their star mare to her own sex for her Festival tune-up, which is likely to be Warwick’s Listed Hurdle on February 10.

“That performance she put in was the real Marie’s Rock and I think that performance is good enough to be competitive in a Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival,” continued Palin.

“I don’t think we will go to Ascot (for the Warfield) or the Cleeve Hurdle.

“I think we will go to Warwick for the Listed race she won before the Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival. That is in mid-February. That is about six weeks away now, then it is a month to the Festival and that appears the route we will go.”

Jeriko Du Reponet cemented his place as the favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with a comfortable success in the Coral Committed To Safer Gambling ‘Introductory’ Hurdle at Newbury.

Trained by Nicky Henderson, the four-year-old was the talking horse of the autumn following a dazzling display at a Newbury gallops morning and confirmed that promise with a facile victory over course and distance on his Rules debut earlier this month.

Returning to Newbury as the 2-5 favourite to enhance his reputation amongst better company, Jeriko Du Reponet was asked a few more questions before ultimately answering them in good style.

James Bowen, replacing the injured Nico de Boinville, kept close tabs on Gary Moore’s Officer Of State as the five-strong field meandered round Newbury and always had that rival covered heading up the home straight.

At two out he was joined at the head of proceedings by Alan King’s 95-rated Flat performer
Paradias, with Hughie Morrison’s Secret Squirrel also not far away.

Jeriko Du Reponet and Paradias jumped the last in unison, but it was the class of the Seven Barrows inmate that took over on the run to the line as he cruised clear to win by one-and-three-quarter-lengths from a staying-on Secret Squirrel, with Paradias back in third.

The winner was shortened into 5-1 favourite from 7-1 with Coral for the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival, while Paddy Power were unchanged as 6-1 market leader.

“I didn’t really want to make the running on my own as he is still inexperienced and thankfully Gary Moore’s horse went forward,” James Bowen told Racing TV.

“We hacked around, but once I gave him a squeeze he really quickened for me. I was never really in doubt but once I did squeeze him he gave me some feel. He’s good.

“He was good then and he is obviously quite a smart horse and I was very happy with him.”

Jeriko Du Reponet’s success was the second leg of a quick-fire double for Henderson and Bowen at Newbury, as Spring Note made every yard of the running to land the Play Coral ‘Racing-Super-Series’ For Free Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.

The 11-4 favourite barely saw a rival up the home straight as she surged to an emphatic 16-length triumph.

Bowen added: “To be honest I didn’t realise I was that far clear. I winged out the gates and went a good gallop all the way and probably put the race to bed between the last two hurdles.

“She was definitely slowing down up the run-in and I didn’t want anything to come and nab me but obviously I was really far clear – she has done it really well.

“Possibly the race may have fell apart, she ran over three miles last time and that didn’t suit her, but obviously a drop back in trip helped.”

Nicky Henderson is counting on the experience of Willmount coming to the fore as the exciting novice bids to maintain his unbeaten record in the Coral Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury.

Bought for £340,000 after impressing in the pointing field, Willmount performed as expected in his bumper season, winning twice at Doncaster for former trainer Neil Mulholland and creating a taking impression in the process.

Switched to Seven Barrows in the off-season by his owner Olly Harris, he picked up from where he left off for his new handler, registering a bloodless 13-length victory on his hurdling bow at Newbury in November.

He is now tasked with becoming Henderson’s third winner in the final Grade One of the calendar year and is in fact just the second runner he will saddle in the race since Champ’s success in 2018.

“We’re running him because he has a bit of experience and we wanted to split up him and Jeriko (Du Reponet), which was the main idea,” said Henderson.

“He’s a pretty sensible sort of horse and he behaves like he has been at it a while, which he has been in fairness. He had a point-to-point and then two bumpers and one run over hurdles and he knows what he is doing, I hope.

“I hope he’s a horse with a bright future, but it’s a good race – a very competitive race.”

It will be the first time Willmount will race beyond two miles under rules and although Henderson admits he may end up campaigning over further in the future, the trainer does have slight concerns about the prospect of testing ground at the Berkshire venue.

On the step up in trip, he added: “I don’t think it is imperative, I must admit. He doesn’t scream to you that he wants further, but I hope he will cope with it.

“The ground would be the biggest concern. This will be very hard work, I anticipate.”

Paul Nicholls is the race’s most successful trainer and has dominated the contest in recent years, winning the last three renewals.

Denman, Stage Star, Bravemansgame and Hermes Allen all feature on the roll of honour and the Ditcheat handler has a strong hand once again with both Champion Bumper third Captain Teague and the unbeaten Farnoge attempting to uphold the champion trainer’s fine record in the contest.

“We have two nice chances in a red-hot renewal of this Grade One which we have won for the past three years and the more it rains, the better for both my runners,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“Captain Teague ran well when a close second last time at Cheltenham under a penalty. He is an exciting prospect and will gallop all day.”

On Farnoge, he added: “He is unbeaten for us having won his bumper last season and both starts over hurdles and has earned a shot at the Challow as I don’t think he is far behind Captain Teague.

“He made all the running at Ascot, the form looks useful, he stays well, keeps on winning and soft ground will be ideal for him.”

Another heading to the contest with a lofty reputation is Jonjo O’Neill’s Johnnywho, who is unbeaten both between the flags and under rules and sports the green and gold of owner JP McManus, while Ben Pauling’s The Jukebox Man is yet to put a foot wrong since finishing runner-up to Gidleigh Park in a bumper and runs in the colours of Harry Redknapp.

Masaccio was just touched off by a smart Seven Barrows operator in Jingko Blue over course and distance earlier this month and represents the Alan King team that won this in 2016 with Messire Des Obeaux.

Meanwhile, Neil King has elected to step Lookaway up in trip after his three-race winning run came to an end when a gallant second in the Greatwood Hurdle.

“I thought we had the best handicapped horse in England going into the Greatwood, but Mr Henderson had one better, but he ran a terrific race to finish second,” said King.

“He’s been in very good form since, we just gave him a little break afterwards to get ready for Newbury but we had plenty of time on our hands, so he is raring to go now.

“After the Greatwood, both Jack (Quinlan) and I feel that stepping him up in trip might be the way forward to seek out a bit of improvement in him and as a Grade One we need to improve.

“It looks a competitive renewal, but he deserves his place in the line-up and I’m sure if he was trained by Mr Henderson or Mr Nicholls he would be half the price that he is.”

Course runner-up Brave Jen is a second runner in the race for Henderson, with Ella Pickard’s Bullets Hill completing the line-up.

Jeriko Du Reponet returns to the scene of his impressive debut attempting to enhance his burgeoning reputation in the Coral Committed To Safer Gambling ‘Introductory’ Hurdle on Saturday.

Trained by Nicky Henderson, the point winner became the talk of the town when dazzling at Newbury on the pre-Coral Gold Cup gallops morning and lived up to expectations when taking to the track, with an easy three-and-a-quarter-length victory over course and distance.

Already favourite with most firms for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, he now faces stiffer opposition as he continues to build up his experience ahead of bigger assignments to come.

“He’s a big horse and he’s only had one point-to-point and one hurdle race which didn’t tell us very much,” said Henderson. “But he did what he had to and was learning all the way.

“This is a better-quality field and we will see how we go here.”

Lying in wait for the four-year-old are four rivals, including Alan King’s Lingfield scorer and 94-rated Flat performer Paradias and Hughie Morrison’s Secret Squirrel, who is three from three following a taking success at Kempton on his hurdles debut.

“He’s only four and is very inexperienced. He hasn’t been through the point-to-points and hasn’t ran on the Flat, so is still really green really,” said Morrison.

“I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do and he probably should be running in a softer novice but the ground could be even worse soon and in two weeks’ time it could be rained off, snowed off or even frozen.

“It’s all about experience and the Henderson horse looks like the next Sprinter Sacre, Altior, Shishkin-type heir apparent there and a 95-rated Flat horse can make a pretty decent jumper as I know from Not So Sleepy, so he could run very well and finish third.

“But it isn’t too far from home and so far Newbury has avoided a lot of the rain, well the worst of it. I just want him to have a nice experience.”

Henderson will also hope to taste success with the King and Queen’s Steal A March in the Coral Racing Club Join For Free Handicap Hurdle.

The eight-year-old was well fancied for a Cheltenham Festival handicap last term before injury struck and now returns from 369 days off the track bidding to pick up where he left off, having scored at Wincanton when last seen.

Dan Skelton’s Get A Tonic impressed when bolting up over course and distance earlier this month and is likely to be a warm order for a repeat, while Paul Nicholls’ Irish Hill was well held on that occasion but is now tried in first-time blinkers off a mark 1lb lower than his last successful rating.

Nicholls told Betfair: “I’m putting a pair of blinkers on Irish Hill to try to sharpen him up because I’m not convinced he put everything in last time at this track.

“Hopefully he can go well off a mark of 127.”

A competitive field has also assembled for the Coral Mandarin Handicap Chase, where Surrey Quest is one of the leading contenders.

Formally trained at Seven Barrows, he made a brilliant start to life in the care of ex-Henderson assistant Toby Lawes when a fast-finishing six-and-a-half-length scorer at Huntingdon and now tries to follow up after an 8lb rise.

“He won well on his debut for Toby and will certainly appreciate the extra distance,” said Clive Hadingham, co-founder of Surrey Racing with Steve Grubb.

“He had a minor op after that race and, while he’s in great shape, he would have preferred this race to be a week later. The ground will be perfect – he wouldn’t want any more rain – but we are happy to take a chance.”

Cheltenham and Newbury are two possible ports of call for Shishkin following his following his luckless run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

The nine-year-old was leading the field after jumping the penultimate fence in the Boxing Day highlight, only to stumble a couple of strides after the obstacle and unseat Nico de Boinville.

That was Shishkin’s first run of the campaign after he refused to start at Ascot in November and trainer Nicky Henderson felt he would have been staying on all the way to the line were it not for his mishap.

He said: “Shishkin is fine. I was a bit concerned that he might have hit something and occurred some damage but he doesn’t appear to have done so I’m 100 per cent happy on that front. It was just one of those things I guess.

“I’m not going to say he would have won, but the consensus of opinion is that he probably would have done as he wasn’t stopping.

“He was really coming up at every fence, and he seemed to be travelling well. I’m pretty sure he would have kept on galloping as he galloped all the way to the line at Aintree.

“Our biggest concern was that he hadn’t had a run. When he has not had a run he controls us, but we are now in control as he has got that run under his belt and he will be a much easier horse to train.”

Shishkin was having just his second start at three miles at Kempton, having previously delivered eight chase victories up to two miles and five furlongs, including the 2021 Arkle, the 2022 Clarence House Chase and the 2023 Ascot Chase.

Henderson switched Shishkin to three miles and a furlong for the Aintree Bowl back in April and he has the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase (January 27) and the Betfair Denman Chase (February 10) over staying trips on his mind.

The trainer said: “I don’t know what to do at the moment and we are just mulling it over. I don’t think we will come back in trip for the Ascot Chase, even though he did win that last year.

“You have got the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham and the Denman Chase at Newbury and they are the only two real possibilities for him before the Gold Cup.

“It will either be one of them, or none of them, but what he needs is experience and a nice clear round.”

While Shishkin was out of luck at Kempton, Jango Baie ensured the team did secure Grade One glory in the Formby Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.

Previously run as the Tolworth at Sandown in January, the rescheduled and renamed contest produced a fine finish as Jango Baie held off Favour And Fortune by just under three lengths in the hands of James Bowen.

Henderson could now look to edge up in distance from an extended two miles with the four-year-old, as the trainer has strength in depth in the novice hurdle sphere with the likes of Jeriko Du Reponet and Willmount taking high order.

“It was great for James Bowen to get his first Grade One as he is a big part of the team here at Seven Barrows. He deserved it and so did the horse, while it was great to get a Grade One for his connections,” said Henderson.

“I’d like to see him run over a little bit further as I’m not sure that trip was far enough for him at Aintree.

“I’ve got a couple of other nice prospects to run this weekend, so we will see what they do then we will make a plan.”

Nicky Henderson will target a record-extending eighth victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle with Sir Gino following the French recruit’s successful British debut at Kempton.

A winner at Auteuil in the spring, the three-year-old was a 4-9 favourite to double his tally on his first start for new connections in the To Win Free Music Tickets ‘Introductory’ Juvenile Hurdle.

Sir Gino did not always shine in the jumping department under Nico de Boinville, but ultimately had far too much firepower for his rivals and passed the post with 14 lengths in hand.

Henderson said: “He is a lovely horse and his life is in front of him. You could say he nearly wants a fence already, but we won’t be doing that for the time being.

“He can sharpen up a lot, as he was a little bit novicey a couple of times. He was either spectacular at them or he kicked the hurdle out, there was no in between.

“He is a big horse, and he needs to fill into his frame. He does look like a chaser, but hurdles are what he will be going over for the time being.”

Paddy Power trimmed the winner’s Triumph Hurdle odds to 8-1 from 10-1 and Henderson confirmed his intention to work back from the Cheltenham Festival.

The Seven Barrows handler added: “He will need to go up in grade now and we can’t pussy foot around with him. You would have thought that the Triumph Hurdle will be where he goes.

“He is not a typical Triumph Hurdle horse, as he is not an ex-Flat racer. He is a proper horse.

“I’d think he will be okay with everything at Cheltenham, but I would like to give him at least one or two more runs before we go there.”

Tweed Skirt gave Henderson a double on the card when winning the Ladbrokes Get Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Chase at 4-1 under Robert Dunne.

Aurigny Mill was a 9-1 winner of the opening Ladbrokes Boost Your Odds On Racing Handicap Hurdle for trainer Victor Dartnall and jockey Fergus Gillard.

Dartnall said: “I’ve always thought he was up at this level. This is the second run of his career that we have had a problem-free run up to.

“He had bruised feet all last season between every run, but we have got on top of all that. My son’s partner rides him out most days and she said he was as good as ever, and she has got it right.

“His owner Sally Weld has been brilliant to us, but she has not been very well. She is actually on a cruise at the moment and I think she is somewhere in the Caribbean.

“I think this will put the horse in at the bottom of the weights of some of the big handicaps.”

Nicky Henderson is unconcerned about the lack of a recent run for Constitution Hill ahead of his bid for back-to-back victories in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle.

On what Henderson sees as the first day of a “new term” for his star pupil, he will belatedly get his season under way at Kempton on Boxing Day, with the weather having scuppered an intended defence of the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle.

The Seven Barrows trainer flirted with the idea of running the six-year-old in a rescheduled Fighting Fifth at Sandown seven days later, but ultimately branded the prospect of running in heavy ground just over a fortnight before his festive target as “physically not possible”.

“That (Newcastle) was the original plan and that is where he would have been, and we would have been on the same leg as last year. Unfortunately, we are not,” said Henderson.

“He was ready for Newcastle, and he is ready for Kempton. He is big and well and strong, he came in looking very well. At one stage I was a bit behind as he was so big.

“It took a bit longer to get the shape back into him, but that is long gone. He has had to do a bit more work as it is all very easy to him. His schooling is unbelievable.

“As we have always said, his temperament is such that it (journey to Newcastle) wouldn’t make any difference to him and he’s had an away day.

“If he comes through this and it goes like last year I’d be confident about the next bit. But the first day out of the year is crucial, it’s like a first day at school. He’s been good at home, but there are new kids on the block and he’s starting a new term.

“He has got to be as good as he ever was at Kempton, then we can look forward.”

With the privilege of training a horse of Constitution Hill’s stature comes no little amount of pressure, but it is something Henderson embraces.

He added: “If you guys (press) didn’t want to talk to us or there was no pressure then it would be time to give up as you have nothing to talk about.

“Sprinter Sacre was in this position when he was at his best. When he was in his first innings and at his absolute pomp, he was seriously unbeatable.”

Constitution Hill will be extremely cramped odds to dispatch of his Kempton rivals, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Rubaud seemingly his biggest threat.

The five-year-old is unbeaten in his last four starts, having landed the Dovecote at Kempton, the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr, a Listed prize at Kempton and the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton – but Nicholls is well aware his latest assignment is an extremely difficult one.

He told Betfair: “He is going to be an awesome chaser next season, but his form over hurdles is so progressive he deserves a shot at this Grade One prize.

“While he has won his last four starts I realise he probably faces an impossible task against Constitution Hill, but we are giving it a go and if he finishes second we will be delighted.”

Henderson has a second string to his bow in First Street, while Kerry Lee has declared both Nemean Lion and Black Poppy.

Alan King’s admirable veteran Sceau Royal completes the field.

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