Shishkin stunned onlookers at Ascot when refusing to start in the Nirvana Spa 1965 Chase, which went the way of Pic D’Orhy.

Nicky Henderson’s top-class chaser was returning to action in the Grade Two contest, which only attracted four runners.

Nico de Boinville was partnering the gelding, who was the short-priced favourite, but at the tapes he did not budge and the race went ahead without him.

Doddiethegreat has the Scottish Champion Hurdle on his radar after making a successful return from 746 days off the track at Ascot.

Named after the late Scottish Rugby Union star Doddie Weir, who died of motor neurone disease almost a year to the day, the Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old has been out of action since winning on hurdles debut at Kempton over two years ago.

Sent off at 5-4 in the hands of Nico de Boinville for the Give The Gift Of Ascot Membership “Introductory” Hurdle, he displayed all the class that had seen him impress in his previous three outings to take advantage of the odds-on favourite Inthewaterside’s below-par display and score by a keeping-on two lengths.

Owned by Kenny Alexander of Honeysuckle fame, prize-money earned by Doddiethegreat is donated to the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, which raises funds to aid research into MND, and having enhanced his unbeaten record he will now be fittingly aimed at Ayr next April for the big handicap hurdle on Scottish Grand National Day.

“He severed a tendon, it was the most horrible injury,” said Henderson.

“They had to rate him on one run. His target is the Scottish Champion Hurdle. The foundation are so enthusiastic, it’s all about going back to Scotland.”

Your Darling often saves his best for the Berkshire track and Ben Pauling’s eight-year-old made it back-to-back victories in the S.A.F.E. Handicap Chase after putting up a fine display to surge nine-lengths clear in the home straight.

The 11-4 favourite, who is owned by Lord Vesty, has not been the most consistent operator down the years and his handler now intends to keep his powder dry over the winter months ahead of a crack at the Grand National fences in the spring.

“He’s one of the most talented horses I’ve trained and when he’s in form he’s electric,” said Pauling.

“It’s just a bit frustrating that he doesn’t always turn up, so my instinct is to put him away and go straight for the Topham Chase.”

There was a double on the day for Harry Fry who saw his Beat The Bat (6-4 joint favourite) conjure up extra to deny the highly-touted Welcom To Cartries in the opening Ascot Partners “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle, before Gin Coco (11-8 favourite) gained compensation for missing Cheltenham’s Greatwood Hurdle by taking the Garden For All Seasons Handicap Hurdle.

There was also plenty to cheer for jockey Charlie Deutsch who won the Racing To School Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase aboard Henry Daly’s outsider of four Supreme Gift (17-2) and then doubled up aboard Venetia Williams’ Hold That Thought (7-2) in the All Seasons Scaffolding Handicap Chase.

The concluding Not Forgotten Novices’ Handicap Hurdle went the way of Harry Derham’s Scamallach Liath, who pulled out extra in the closing stages under Paul O’Brien to oblige favourite backers at odds of 13-8.

Shishkin sets out on what Nicky Henderson hopes will be a fruitful staying campaign when he lines up for the Nirvana Spa 1965 Chase at Ascot.

So brilliant at his best over two miles, the decision was taken to go over further immediately after he finished third in last year’s Tingle Creek at Sandown – his first start since being pulled up in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham that March, after which he was subsequently found to be suffering from a rare bone condition.

He looked magnificent in beating Pic D’Orhy in the Ascot Chase in February and did little wrong when second to Envoi Allen in the Ryanair Chase, before taking the plunge over three miles and a furlong at the Grand National meeting, staying on strongly to account for Ahoy Senor.

Henderson has his sights on the King George at Christmas, but first Shishkin must pass this two-mile-five-furlong reappearance test, where he again meets the Paul Nicholls-trained Pic D’Orhy.

“He’s in very good form. Nico (de Boinville) is happy with him, the timing is right and he’s done everything right,” said the master of Seven Barrows, who also had the option of going for the Betfair Chase with the nine-year-old.

“Pic D’Orhy is coming to Ascot and we will take on Bravemansgame later (in the King George).

“He showed us at Aintree he’s a stayer, it took him a long time to pick up Ahoy Senor. You can’t win a King George with a doubtful stayer, but he’s proved he does (stay).”

Although second best to Shishkin over course and distance earlier in the year, Pic D’Orhy would end his campaign with a decisive victory in the Melling Chase at Aintree and has Ditcheat stable jockey Harry Cobden on board for his return to action.

“I’ve always believed in this horse, who never stopped improving last season and looks fantastic,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“This Grade Two race has been his target from the moment he came back from holiday early in July.

“He is fit to run for his life, his work with Bravemansgame on Thursday was eyecatching and drying ground at Ascot is a big plus for him.

“We don’t think he was at his best when he was beaten by Shishkin at Ascot in February, as he’d had a few races before that, and things could well be different this time.”

Donald McCain’s Minella Drama was a bronze medallist behind Pic D’Orhy in the spring and also performed well on Merseyside on his seasonal bow when second in the Old Roan Chase.

Brian Hughes rides and said in his blog for “With Shishkin to beat, it’s not going to be easy for Minella Drama, but we are the only horse in the field with a run under our belt.

“He ran well on his return at Aintree and I think going right-handed at Ascot will suit. Strictly on ratings, we look fairly matched with Pic D’Orhy, but Shishkin is in the race, and he is a fair horse. I was hoping he’d be going to Haydock!

“We’re fit and I’d love to think we could beat him, but he’s some horse. I think we’ll give him a good race, though. We’re hoping he likes Ascot and can then pitch up there again in the Ascot Chase in February.”

The field of four is rounded off by Straw Fan Jack, who was set some lofty targets at the business end of last season and continues to have his sights aimed high by trainer Sheila Lewis.

It is 10 years since Triolo D’Alene provided Nicky Henderson with his third victory in what is now the Coral Gold Cup – but in Dusart the Seven Barrows handler believes he has another live contender.

Triolo D’Alene was a second success in as many years for Henderson, following on from subsequent Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth, with Trabolgan in 2005 being his first winner.

Dusart has always been highly regarded and won three of his first four outings over fences, but he only ran three times last season, without success. He was one of four stablemates galloping at Newbury on Tuesday.

“Dusart did it well enough this morning and has had a nice away day like Jonbon, who came here the other day, he walked round the paddock and went home,” said Henderson.

“He’s been here before and is a good horse. The Coral has always been the plan and he would benefit from some decent ground.

“He had all sorts go wrong last season and was travelling beautifully when being brought down in the Scottish National.”

It is a fixture Henderson always targets and it is likely to see Under Control reappear, the four-year-old filly beating stablemate and Greatwood Hurdle winner Iberico Lord at Sandown when last seen. Marie’s Rock is another due to be in action.

“Under Control will run in the Gerry Feilden here on Saturday week. She needed to do something and is marginally straighter than Marie’s Rock,” said Henderson.

“She’s not something that hits you as being gorgeous, but she’s an absolute poppet. She’s talented and her form is strong.

“Marie’s Rock runs here in the three-miler (Long Distance Hurdle) and she will go in anything. It will be nice though to get some nice ground. It was pretty soft under the rail this morning. Nico (de Boinville) is very pleased with her.”

One horse from the yard who is garnering plenty of talk is new recruit Jeriko Du Reponet and he is another likely runner at the meeting, along with Willmount, a winner at Newbury first time out for Henderson having looked smart in bumpers with Neil Mulholland.

“Jeriko Du Reponet won a point in Northern Ireland. He’s never done anything before today,” said Henderson.

“Last night I needed a fourth horse to bring and he fell into place. He’d never had an away day, but I wanted to see if he might be ready for Newbury.

“Willmount is an exciting one who won well here and could come back. He’s quite exciting.”

Shishkin is “almost certain” to line up in Ascot’s 1965 Chase on Saturday in preference to the Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock.

Nicky Henderson raised the possibility of Shishkin heading to Merseyside earlier in the autumn for a mouthwatering clash with last year’s winner Protektorat and the King George hero of last season, Bravemansgame.

Henderson had considered the Betfair Chase as a suitable stepping-stone towards the King George at Kempton over Christmas, but the prospect of testing ground has prompted a change of heart.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that two-miles-five around Ascot is going to suit him better than three miles in the soft at Haydock,” said the Seven Barrows handler.

“The ground at Ascot will be preferable and he’s almost certain to go there. He’s won a two-mile-five race there and we know he likes it (the track).”

Now a nine-year-old, Shishkin won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Arkle over two miles at successive Cheltenham Festivals.

However, he was pulled up in the Champion Chase of 2022 and after being beaten into third behind Edwardstone in last season’s Tingle Creek, Henderson stepped his charge up in trip.

The move proved successful, with a 16-length win in the Ascot Chase in February over Pic D’Orhy, who he will meet again on Saturday, preceding a running-on second to Envoi Allen in the Ryanair Chase.

He then tackled three miles for the first time at Aintree, when he reeled in Ahoy Senor after the last fence to lift the Bowl, and Henderson hopes to see him return to the longer distance on Boxing Day.

He added: “This is a prep race for the King George and we want to win it.

“He didn’t travel as well as he might in his races last season and I think we might put some cheek pieces on him. We’ve schooled him in them and they help keep his mind on it.”

Middleham Park hurdlers Red Risk and Marie’s Rock are likely to cross paths in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury next month.

Both horses run in the silks of the ownership group, and Marie’s Rock has won at the highest level for connections, taking both the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and the Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown last year.

The Nicky Henderson-trained mare was second to Sire Du Berlais in the Liverpool Hurdle on her final start last season and will reappear for the new campaign over the staying trip.

There she will encounter Paul Nicholls’ Red Risk, an eight-year-old who has been moving out of handicap company in recent starts and made a promising start to the season when second in the Grade Two bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby’s Charlie Hall meeting.

Tom Palin of Middleham Park said of the two horses: “I think they’re going to do battle, they’ll be taking each other on at Newbury in the three-mile Grade Two there (December 1).

“That’s been Marie’s Rock’s target for a while, that was the logical starting point for her.

“Red Risk ran a cracker at Wetherby, I thought we were going to go past the other horse but he really toughed it out as well. We were delighted with the run.

“He does go very well fresh, we’ll run at Newbury but the one question we have is whether it’s a bit too soon after Wetherby.

“Then we’d just look at giving him a bit of a freshen up going into something ahead of the spring, maybe a Cleeve Hurdle or something akin to that.

“They’ll probably end up taking each other on at Newbury in that Grade Two and it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top.”

Marie’s Rock will proceed from Wetherby in the direction of the top staying contests, with the big festivals at Cheltenham and Aintree pencilled in for the spring.

“She’s obviously got that useful weight allowance and I think she has a pull as it is on official ratings but that performance (by Red Risk) the other day was a very, very good performance,” Palin said.

“We’ve just got Red Risk figured out and Marie’s Rock is in great form. Her campaign kind of plans itself; Newbury, Ascot, Cheltenham for the Cleeve, Cheltenham for the Stayers’ and Aintree again.”

Willmount made the perfect start to life over obstacles with an effortless win in the Agetur UK Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury.

Trained by Neil Mulholland last season to win two bumpers, he moved to Nicky Henderson over the summer and the change of scenery has certainly not done him any harm.

Nico de Boinville found himself in front aboard Oli Harris’ £340,000 purchase after half a mile due to the speed at which his mount was jumping and from then on it was a solo affair.

Only Beny Nahar Road and Onewayortother attempted to keep pace but when De Boinville kicked clear on the turn for home and pinged the third last, the race was over and he cruised to a 13-length success.

“He gave me a lovely feel actually. There wasn’t much pace on so I was happy to just roll away down the back, he pricked his ears nicely and quickened away into the straight,” De Boinville told Racing TV.

“He jumped very nicely, was slick when he needed to be and he could fiddle away as well, which is great.

“He’s very uncomplicated, these pedigrees are showing more and more with their temperament and everything.”

Constitution Hill could face up to 12 rivals when he makes his seasonal comeback in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in December.

Nicky Henderson’s gelding is unbeaten under rules and is the undisputed star of the hurdling division, winning all seven starts and among them six Grade Ones.

He was last seen claiming back-to-back successes at the big spring festivals, winning the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and then the Aintree Hurdle over two and a half miles before heading off on a summer break.

A graduation to chasing was discussed and ultimately vetoed, meaning the six-year-old will take a familiar route through the division by starting out in the Fighting Fifth – a race he won by 12 lengths last year.

“He’ll go straight to the Fighting Fifth, that’s December 2, hopefully we’re all ready for that,” Henderson told Racing TV.

There are 12 others engaged, amongst them is Jamie Snowden’s You Wear It Well, a Cheltenham Festival winner who made light work of her seasonal debut when winning Wetherby’s Listed bet365 Mares’ Hurdle by three lengths at the weekend.

There is a programme of valuable mares’ events throughout the term and that is the path the six-year-old is likely to follow, though the Fighting Fifth option remains open for now.

“She did really well, she was carrying a penalty first time out and it’s always nice to see them stepping up to the mark like that,” Snowden said of her Wetherby run.

“The mares’ route maps itself out, from Sandown to Warwick to Cheltenham in March. Sandown is in January, so the question is whether we think about getting a run into her before then.

“I have just put an entry for the Fighting Fifth this morning, I’m not sure we’d want to be taking on Constitution Hill necessarily, but it doesn’t hurt to put an entry in.”

Harry Fry’s Love Envoi is another mare entered, with Kerry Lee responsible for a duo of entrants in Black Poppy and Nemean Lion.

Sandy Thomson has put forward Benson and Phil Kirby has entered Jason The Militant, whereas Hughie Morrison could saddle the dual-purpose gelding Not So Sleepy, who dead-heated with Epatante in 2021.

Alan King’s Sceau Royal is another seasoned campaigner with an entry, alongside which Brian Ellison has entered Salsada, James Owen has Too Friendly and Iain Jardine has Voix Du Reve.

Nicky Henderson has identified the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase as the primary objective for Shishkin, with the Betfair Chase at Haydock a potential port of call en-route to Kempton.

The former star two miler successfully stepped up to an extended three miles in the Aintree Bowl in the spring and looks set to be campaigned over staying trips this season.

Following a pleasing racecourse gallop at Windsor last week, Henderson feels the nine-year-old is right where he wants him ahead of a potential comeback at Haydock on November 25.

“The whole objective for Shishkin is one day after Christmas and that is the King George,” said the Seven Barrows handler.

“After that race, we will decide where we go from there. He has had a racecourse gallop and the plan is to go to the Betfair Chase first, then onto the King George. He was super in the racecourse gallop and I was thrilled with him. Nico (de Boinville) rode him and he was great.

“He is most definitely a stayer. We started last season at two miles, then we went up to two miles five furlongs at Ascot and he looked good.

“You would have to say we were a little bit disappointed at Cheltenham in the Ryanair Chase, but then we upped him to three miles one furlong at Aintree and that was a good, solid, staying jumping performance.

“His win at Aintree showed that he stays three miles, but now we have got to confirm that. The ground at Haydock does frighten you a little bit, but we have got to go there, as he is not entered in the Charlie Hall and you have either that or the Betfair Chase before the King George.”

Shishkin is one of 15 possible contenders for the Betfair Chase, with last year’s winner Protektorat and the 2021 victor and former Gold Cup hero A Plus Tard also in the mix.

Bravemansgame, Gerri Colombe and L’Homme Presse are other notable names among the hopefuls for the Merseyside feature.

A Plus Tard aside, all of the above are also on a list of 19 initial entries for the King George, along with the likes of Allaho, last season’s Gold Cup winner Galopin Des Champs and The Real Whacker.

Connections of Impaire Et Passe insist a potential clash with Constitution Hill was not a factor in their decision to keep last season’s star novice hurdler over the smaller obstacles this term.

There were differing views on Tuesday after Nicky Henderson confirmed his Champion Hurdle hero Constitution Hill would not be embarking on a chasing career in the immediate future, with some bemoaning the decision due to the perceived lack of depth in the two-mile hurdling division.

In Impaire Et Passe, though, he could face a new and significant rival, with the five-year-old having won each of four starts since joining Willie Mullins, including a dominant success in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Given the irresistible force that stands in their way, many expected Impaire Et Passe’s owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede to elect to send their charge over fences in the autumn – but he will indeed head down the Champion Hurdle route, regardless of the opposition.

The owners’ racing manager, Anthony Bromley, said: “Basically it was always the thinking all summer that Impaire Et Passe was pretty inexperienced and another season hurdling would be good for the horse.

“We weren’t making the decision based on what other horses were around us, we were making the decision based on what was the best decision for the horse and his long-term career.

“You never know what will happen to all these horses, so you make the decision based on what’s best for the actual animal rather than what’s around you, that was the thinking really.”

While the chances of Constitution Hill going chasing in the future appear slim, Impaire Et Passe is expected to switch disciplines next term.

Bromley added: “He’s so lightly raced that another season hurdling will hopefully toughen him up and then we can go chasing next season.

“He is the stamp of a chaser so he is exciting for that job, but we’ll see how high he can go over hurdles first.”

Constitution Hill will stay over hurdles this season, trainer Nicky Henderson has announced.

The six-year-old is unbeaten in seven career starts to date, with six of those victories at Grade One level, including a nine-length triumph in last season’s Champion Hurdle.

Following Constitution Hill’s Aintree Hurdle verdict in April, Henderson, owner Michael Buckley and jockey Nico de Boinville discussed a possible switch to chasing over the summer.

However, they have now decided to remain over the smaller obstacles, with another Champion Hurdle success the ultimate aim.

Henderson told the PA news agency: “The news on Constitution Hill is that after a lot of deliberating and a lot of advice from everybody in the world, because everybody wants a piece of this, he is going to stay over hurdles.

“At the end of the day I don’t think it was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. People will ask if we’ve schooled him over fences and why have we come to this decision.

“He would jump fences with his eyes shut, if we wanted him to, but the basis of the decision was we had to be 100 per cent sure that he would stay three and a quarter miles (in the Gold Cup).

“There was nothing to be gained by switching to fences by running in an Arkle, Champion Chase and possibly a Ryanair, great races though they are, but the Champion Hurdle is the Champion Hurdle, so if you are going to run in anything you might as well stick to what you know.

“I dare say there will be plenty of people saying this is unimaginative, but there was no doubt in Nico’s (De Boinville) mind, stamina was likely to be a major issue and the only point in doing it was if one felt he could become a Gold Cup horse.”

“For all three of us the decision was unanimous. You might say why did it take three months, but we all felt it was the right decision.”

Nicky Henderson is set to announce next week whether Constitution Hill will remain over hurdles or pursue a fencing career this season.

The undoubted star of National Hunt racing has won each of his seven starts over the smaller obstacles to date, including a brilliant victory in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

With autumn fast approaching, connections must now decide whether to head down the same route this term or change tack – and the eagerly-anticipated news appears imminent.

Speaking to Newbury Today, Henderson said: “We’ll announce what we’re doing next week.

“We’re still to-ing and fro-ing, so many things have to go right so whatever we do is a bit of a risk.

“We won’t send him chasing unless we’re absolutely sure.

“He’s had a great summer and we’re still weighing up our options.”

The key to the decision appears to be whether the Seven Barrows handler feels the Michael Buckley-owned Constitution Hill possesses the required stamina to at some stage have a crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup over three and a quarter miles.

Legendary mare Dawn Run is the only horse to win the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup, and only a potential repeat of that famous double will tempt Henderson to go over the larger obstacles with his pride and joy.

He added: “There’s no point switching to fences just to win the Champion Chase now, because you might as well win the Champion Hurdle again.”

Meanwhile, Nico de Boinville, who has been ever present in the saddle during Constitution Hill’s career so far, is relishing the opportunity to be reunited with the six-year-old in the coming months.

De Boinville – who will be in action on the Flat on Thursday when he rides the David Simcock-trained Fulfilled in the Everyone’s Booking Fit Show 2025 Jump Jockeys Derby at Epsom – said: “Last season with Constitution Hill was fantastic, everyone really enjoyed it and we have all had a bit of time to reflect on what he did.

“I thought last season’s Cheltenham Festival was great and it was fantastic to play our small part in it in winning the Champion Hurdle.

“Constitution Hill has spent the summer at Charlie Vigors’ (Hillwood Stud) and he has come back in looking well and I can’t wait to get going with him again. ”

On his upcoming mount at the home of the Derby, he added: “I’ve not ridden for David Simcock since my amateur days so I’m very much looking forward to it.

“It is my second ride in the race, but I’ve had a couple of other rides around Epsom as an amateur.

“It will be very competitive for sure, but I will be giving it a good go. As long as I beat David Bass I will be happy!”

Nicky Henderson is looking forward to going novice hurdling with Willmount having taken over training duties of the unbeaten five-year-old.

Owned by Olly Harris, he commanded £340,000 at the sales following a maiden point-to-point win at Comea in February 2022 and then went on to make an immediate impact under rules last season.

He created a deep impression when partnered by Jamie Moore for his rules debut at Doncaster, scoring by 13 lengths and followed that up with another victory on Town Moor, winning by four-and-a-half lengths under a penalty.

Those two victories came while in the care of Neil Mulholland, but the talented youngster has now been switched to Seven Barrows ahead of the new jumps season kicking into gear.

“He’s only just arrived, he’s a nice horse,” said Henderson.

“He will certainly be going straight over hurdles. He’s a very nice horse actually and he looked a good horse for Neil last year. He looks very well.

“He did look a bit special, and interestingly we all knew he looked quite good because I bought his sister at the Derby Sale in Ireland over the summer hoping he might turn out to be a good horse.”

Nicky Henderson says Constitution Hill “couldn’t be better” following his summer break – but he is yet to partake in the all-important schooling session which could determine if jumps racing’s unbeaten superstar remains over hurdles or goes chasing.

National Hunt racing’s flagship horse is a perfect seven from seven in his career to date and has swept the board over timber, blowing away his rivals to win six Grade One prizes on the bounce.

Having conquered all over the smaller obstacles, the burning question is whether connections will take the plunge and embark on a campaign over fences with the reigning Champion Hurdler in the new season.

Constitution Hill is back at Seven Barrows following an enjoyable summer at Hillwood Stud, with owner Michael Buckley and Henderson having plenty to consider together with jockey Nico de Boinville.

“He couldn’t be better, he’s looking enormous and great,” said Henderson.

“We’re waiting for the weather just to have a look-see and it will probably be a few weeks before we do, but we’re looking at him, not that he can talk.”

It is not the first time Henderson has had to make the crucial decision over which direction to send one of his stable stars, with the situation reminding him of Altior’s early days at the Lambourn centre of excellence.

Patricia Pugh’s pride and joy was unbeaten in five outings over hurdles, but the decision was made to switch and he went on to win 15 of his 18 starts over fences, including the Champion Chase twice and the Arkle.

However, Henderson believes there are more variables at play on this occasion, with the pull of becoming the first horse since Dawn Run to win both the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup meaning stamina is a vital component connections need to be sure is in Constitution Hill’s armoury.

“It’s a difficult dilemma and I remember going through it with Altior when we were in exactly the same boat – OK, he hadn’t won a Champion Hurdle but he would have done if he had stayed hurdling, there is no doubt about that.

“It’s the same dilemma and again we schooled Altior over fences and he was absolutely brilliant and we decided to go down that route.

“There are other issues to consider this time, because it is also going to be a question of stamina really and we would be doing it if we think he is a stayer.

“You would want to be thinking along the Gold Cup lines, that would be the reason for going chasing.

“He can do most things because he is so relaxed about life and I think he would stay as far as you liked to be honest. He just goes to sleep very easily and he’s not one who will overrace.

“We’ve been talking about it as you can guess, but Nico is still away at the moment because there is a break (in the summer jumps season) and we’ll keep thinking, but he’s in very good form.”

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