Nicky Henderson says Shishkin will be ‘as good as gold’ at the Newcastle three-mile start on Saturday as he seeks redemption in the Rehearsal Handicap Chase (17h05).
The star chaser will run without cheekpieces, and the forecast soft ground will only be a positive for this grand horse.
Regular rider Nico de Boinville stays on board.
The six-time Group 1 winner, who was wearing cheekpieces for the first time before refusing to race in Ascot’s 1965 Chase last weekend, will face seven rivals on his first start in handicap company.
He will have to carry top weight of 12 stone, conceding upwards of 21lbs to the rest of the field, although five of his rivals will run under sufferance due to Shishkin’s rating of 173.
Henderson is making sure his team do all they can to ensure he jumps off at the start. He remarked: “You’ve got to take the whole thing back to basics. Cheekpieces weren’t the reason he didn’t start at Ascot but I’m going back to square one. We’ll have someone from the yard there to lead him in, which I’m sure will help.”
Shishkin’s stablemate, the superstar hurdler Constitution Hill faces just four rivals as he makes his eagerly awaited return in the BetMGM Fighting Fifth Hurdle (15h55) on the same card.
The reigning Champion Hurdler was a brilliant 12-length winner of this Group 1 last year and begins on a similar path to Cheltenham.
Rivals include the classy mare Love Envoi, who finished second in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham behind Honeysuckle in March before disappointing at Punchestown in April.
Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle heroine You Wear It Well also runs. The six-year-old mare made a winning comeback in a Listed contest at Wetherby last month and will be race fit, but this looks to be another steering job for Nico de Boinville.
On Sunday in Ireland, Impaire Et Passe makes his seasonal return in the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle (16h35). The Fairyhouse Group 1 contest run over two and a half miles sees the Willie Mullins trained five-year-old take on four rivals, including his stable-companion, the talented mare Ashroe Diamond.
The progressive Teahupoo from the Gordon Elliott stable is joint top-rated on official ratings (160) with the Paul Townend ridden favourite. The course and distance winner will ensure Impaire Et Passe has had a race but should battle in the final furlongs to keep up with the pace and slick jumping of the highly rated Impaire Et Passe.