Shishkin plans on hold; Christophe Soumillon returns to riding

Shishkin “flipped his palate” in a piece of work this week and will need 10 days off, while Christophe Soumillon returns to riding in South Africa this weekend following his 60-day ban.

Nicky Henderson has reported that Shishkin "flipped his palate" in a piece of work this week and will need 10 days off while the problem is resolved.

While the procedure is not a major one, a new plan for the rest of the season will now need to be mapped out.

Having won his first 10 completed starts over obstacles, Shishkin has been beaten in his last two outings - pulling up in last season's Champion Chase and finishing a distant third behind Edwardstone on his reappearance in the Tingle Creek at Sandown.

Following his most recent eclipse, Henderson stated his intention to step Shishkin up in distance and has not even entered his 2021 Arkle winner for the Champion Chase this time around.

He does, however, hold entries in the Ryanair Chase and, intriguingly, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, while the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton next weekend has been mooted as a potential pre-Festival target.

Speaking in his Unibet blog on Friday, Henderson said: "After working earlier this week Nico (de Boinville) reported that Shishkin made a noise. We've never heard any noises from him before, not even a murmur, but Nico said there was a noise and we've investigated it and scoped him and he'd basically flipped his palate.

"It was clear and obvious. Essentially his palate is displacing, which is surprising as we've never heard it in a race but it's highly like that it was indeed happening in a race. It's a very easy fix but it's 10 days off.

"We've got to do it, we'll get on with it and get it done. It's a common old problem and a very easy thing to fix, but it's got to be done."

The Seven Barrows handler did earlier provide an upbeat report on the well-being of star novice chaser Jonbon, however.

Runner-up to esteemed stablemate Constitution Hill in last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the JP McManus-owned gelding is set to contest the Kingmaker at Warwick on February 11 on his way back to Cheltenham for the Arkle Trophy in March.

"Jonbon is very, very good. He's had a nice little freshen up and he will start sort of doing his more serious work soon," Henderson said at Ludlow on Friday.

"He is having a little hack around but he is very fresh and we're having a job keeping his back down. He is very fresh and very well. He will go to the Kingmaker at Warwick."

Henderson also confirmed his Relkeel heroine of last weekend Marie's Rock will not run again before defending her crown in Cheltenham's Mares' Hurdle.

Stablemate First Street, third in the Relkeel, looks set for a drop in distance.

"Marie's Rock has taken the race very well. I can't see that she will run again, as I can't see the race we can run in again," the trainer said.

"I can't see the point in running again. If she comes and does that first time out, it sort of tells you that you don't need to - you're as fresh as you can be.

"First Street ran a very nice race. I think you can conclude that he didn't genuinely stay two miles and five furlongs in that ground. He is a two-miler at the end of the day."

Soumillon, meanwhile, returns to riding in South Africa this weekend following his 60-day ban for elbowing Rossa Ryan off his horse at Saint-Cloud in September.

The actions of the Belgian, 10 times a champion in France, sparked widespread criticism and swift action was taken by France Galop to suspend Soumillon.

As a result of the incident, he also lost his contract as retained rider for the Aga Khan and missed potentially lucrative spells in Hong Kong and Japan. Meetings such as Champions Day at Ascot and the Breeders' Cup also took place during his ban.

It is a big day in Cape Town at Kenilworth on Saturday and Soumillon has picked up the ride on Golden Ducat for trainer Eric Sands in the 162nd L'Ormarins King's Plate, the top mile contest run in South Africa.

Golden Ducat has performed with promise in a pair of Graded races since returning from over 500 days off the track and Cape Town-based Sands is delighted to have the services of a jockey he regards as one of best three in the world.

"He's a great rider," he told Cape Racing. "Soumillon always rises to the occasion and gets horses to rise to the occasion. In my book he's one of the best three jockeys in the world."

On the chances of Golden Ducat, a son of Philanthropist and winner of the Cape Derby in 2020, he added: "His two prep runs were great runs and he was way below where we want him to be.

"Unfortunately after his last run he had a little tweak, so he had a few days off. He's getting to his best now and he'll be better for the Met (January 28). A mile is on a sharp side for him, but we'll see how he goes and I've been happy with his prep."

Previously run as the Queen's Plate, the race was first staged in 1861 when Queen Victoria donated a silver plate and 500 sovereigns to the winner.

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