DEATH, taxes and Shishkin?
Many consider him a rare, British-bred Cheltenham Festival master, but Nicky Henderson is much more cautious.
The eight-year-old is a 4-6 favorite for champion queen mother Chase with sponsors Betway.
He is unbeaten in each of his 11 completed jump starts and has a couple of festival victories to his credit.
But last month, at Clarence House in Ascot, he was greatly intimidated by his big rival Energumen.
Runner Willie Mullins appeared to be in serious trouble turning home, but Shishkin took him down in the last 100 yards.
Energumen, 11-4 for the Queen Mother, has yet to race at Cheltenham and on paper the tough nature of the circuit looks like Shishkin would do well in a rematch.
But six-time champion coach Henderson expects another intense battle in 22 days.
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He joked: “Britain needs bankers – unfortunately most of them are in the city!
“Last year we were beaten by the Irish, and everyone is well aware that Shishkin cannot be a banker.
“There was nothing special between him and Energumen at Ascot, they were separated only by the distance on the line.
“It was a fantastic race, everyone loved it except me and Willy. We knew that one of us would lose and it was great that we took the lead.
“The rematch is very intriguing and the good thing about the Ascot race is that it didn’t ruin the race for the champion.
“If one of them won by 10 lengths, it would make the second round a little raw squib.
“He seems to be in very good shape, so it doesn’t look like the race has left a mark.
“I expect the same tactics from both sides, and whatever happens, there will be a good pace.
“Willy is also going to add Chacun Pour Soi to the mix. I know they say he doesn’t travel, but we certainly don’t underestimate him.
“It should be a brilliant race.”
Henderson knows what it takes to win the title race, having won the prestigious race six times.
In recent years, Altior and Sprinter Sacre have flown the Seven Mounds flag in the Grand Class 1, but Henderson thinks Shishkin is a different kind of beast.
He said: “It has a different style of racing than Altior and Sprinter Sacre, it doesn’t have that kind of exuberance, it’s very fast and efficient.
“At one time they were probably bankers, at that time there was no such level of competition, but this horse has a big battle ahead.
“The other day, back at Ascot, you thought we were in trouble, but then his stamina showed up. His finishing blow is definitely his strength.
“You would like to think that Hill will play to his strength. Willie says he doesn’t know how he’ll beat us, but I think he’s playing games there.
“I think he’s looking forward to another crack and I don’t think he’s that scared.”
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