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‘He was our star’ – Racing superstar Shishkin dies in a tragic accident

The multiple Grade One and Cheltenham Festival winner died last night confirmed in a statement by trainer Nicky Henderson.

One of racing’s brightest stars, Shishkin, sadly passed away last night in a tragic stable accident.

A statement from trainer Nicky Henderson said; ‘Tragically, we have lost Shishkin this evening after he got cast in his stable and fractured his hind leg.

‘Everyone involved with Seven Barrows, particularly his owners, Joe and Marie Donnelly, Jaydon, Nico and George are obviously devastated that such a great horse, friend and warrior has gone.

‘He was due to leave for Punchestown tomorrow morning, but sadly this is not to be.

‘He was an absolute superstar, and his CV is a testament to that. The Supreme Novice Hurdle and Arkle were his Cheltenham highlights, but the battle with Energumene in the Clarence House at Ascot was probably his greatest.

‘This is a very sad night. He was our star, and we will never forget him. Thank you, Shishkin, for the wonderful memories.’

Shishkin was due to race against Galopin Des Champs in the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday.

He started his career at Seven Barrows, Henderson’s base, with an emphatic win at Kempton in March 2019.

This then led him to win a hotly contested Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, beating Abrcadabras by a head.

The next season, he went chasing and delivered an incredible unbeaten season, where he picked up the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton and the Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster.

He was dominant in the Arkle at Cheltenham, beating four rivals by 12 lengths before winning his second Grade One, the Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree.

He was kept over fences since, where he blew away the field in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton, before an enduring battle with Willie Mullins-trained horse Energumene in the Clarence House Chase.

He looked beaten when jumping the final fence worse than his rival, but somehow, he managed to galvanise and pounced on Energumene in the final 100 yards to win by a length, in possibly his greatest victory.

However, he was pulled up in the Queen Mother Champion Chase of 2022, with jockey Nico de Boinville citing ‘he never travelled.’

He looked a shadow of himself when beaten in the Tingle Creek Chase back into third, with Nicky Henderosn making the decision to step him up in trip.

It looked to work as he won the Grade One Ascot Chase by 16 lengths but fell short in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

However, he regained his popularity by finishing on a high and winning the Aintree Bowl over three miles beating former Gold Cup winner A Plus Tard.

This season, he refused to race at Ascot, the first time we got to see Shishkin’s quirky side on the racecourse.

He then went to the King George VI Chase, where after the second last Shishkin stumbled on landing when in front and unseated de Boinville.

His final win came at Newbury, when he won the Denman Chase. He missed Cheltenham this year as a precaution, due to Henderson horses turning ill, which he would’ve been well fancied for.

He wasn’t at his sparking best but produced a valiant effort to defend his Aintree Bowl title, but Gerri Colombe took the crown, whilst Shishkin settled for fourth.

Why he was so popular was his desire to win. Much like the legends of Kauto Star, Denman and Frodon from the Paul Nicholls’ stable, Shishkin had heart.

Whilst his earlier years in racing was about winning and dominating his division, his older years were all about trying. Trying to live up to what he built up, and succeeding against tough opponents.

Had he not stumbled in the King George, Shishkin would have been the most popular winner of the race since Kauto Star won his fifth King George.

Amongst all the tributes from racing fans and pundits, Shishkin was the modern-day people’s horse.

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