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.”