Nicky Henderson fought back tears as Shiskin gave him the perfect tonic on a rollercoaster day by claiming the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, writes Bradley West.
The legendary British trainer endured the worst possible start to his Festival this morning when stable star Altior was ruled out of Wednesday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, denying him the chance at a historic hat-trick in the race.
But Henderson bounced back in perfect fashion as Nico de Boinville expertly steered the six-year-old Shiskin to victory in a dramatic opener to the week, edging victory in a tight photo finish.
“It's certainly a tonic after this morning, we say every year that something will come up and bite you and sadly it was Altior,” said Henderson, who has won the Supreme Novices’ three times previously.
“It's very hard to leave him at home because he is one the most powerful shots we have this year but we always do what is right for the horse.
“It's always nice to win this race, it just relaxes everyone and you feel anything is a bonus now. The day couldn't have started much worse with the news about Altior but this has brought a smile back to our faces for sure.
“Shishkin has just got gears and you needed all of them to get out of trouble and Nico has just given him a wonderful patient ride. He's all heart and he didn't stop battling, I couldn't be prouder. Nico is so cool headed around Cheltenham and he made the difference there.
“He's a gorgeous horse for the future and we've got a lot to look forward to with him but we want to enjoy this now."
Willie Mullins’s 3-1 favourite Asterion Forlonge had made a perfect start, galloping into the lead with Shishkin struggling to make ground early on.
But the Irish raider's jumping fell apart in the closing stages, leaving Gordon Elliott's Abacadabras - ridden by Davy Russell - to battle de Boinville, who timed his run to perfection, all the way to the line.