Shishkin could make his eagerly awaited seasonal debut at Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase in Kempton over Christmas if he satisfies coach Nicky Henderson with his second crucial practice next week.

The Cheltenham double-fest winner delighted his Seven Barrows coach in practice on Friday morning – but he wants to put the seven-year-old in his stride again before deciding to head to the Millennium competition on December 27.

Shiskhin, unbeaten in his last eight matches, was last seen winning the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham with another first-class win at Maghull Novices’ Chase in Aintree in April.

He was due to start his winter campaign at Tingle Creek Chase in Sandown earlier this month, but Henderson wasn’t happy with the horse’s condition. His concern was justified when Shishkin made a poor move on the eve of the race.

Speaking at Ascot on Friday, Henderson said: “Shishkin worked this morning with Epatant, another good rookie – not Constitution Hill – and he’s been good.

“He took a good hit. His range was good after that, which was encouraging, but I need to repeat that on Tuesday. He took a good hit this morning.

“He’s clean. The vets happened to be in the yard because of Buzz (he got injured), so we checked him out and he came clean after a real sprint.

“I want to do that with the gallop again. It will probably happen on Tuesday, because the race is on Monday (the following week) and then I will talk to Joe (Donnelly, the owner) and Nico and I will decide on Tuesday if he is ready to race the following Monday.

“If he’s not ready, Joe Donnelly is great. He says ‘Nikki, if you’re not happy, leave him’ – we’re coming over here for Clarence House (next month).” But it is in good condition. “

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