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Shishkin dies: Nicky Henderson pays emotional tribute to multiple Grade One star after stable accident

Shishkin suffered a fracture to his hind leg after being cast in his stable as he was readied to head to Punchestown for the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday; Nicky Henderson moved by outpouring of love for his star

Nicky Henderson and Shishkin
Image: Nicky Henderson and Shishkin

Nicky Henderson has paid an emotional tribute to Shishkin after his untimely death due to an injury incurred in his stable.

The gelding's star started to rise during his hurdling career, which peaked with a Supreme Novices' Hurdle victory at the Cheltenham Festival in 2020.

He was then an instant success as a chaser, collecting seven consecutive wins, including the Arkle, the Maghull and the Desert Orchid Chase, as well as a memorable Clarence House win following a duel up the Ascot straight with Energumene.

That winning streak, which ran to 10 races if his late hurdles form is included, came to an end eventually but the gelding still continued to show flashes of complete brilliance.

He won the Ascot Chase by 16 lengths last year and the Bowl at Aintree when stepping up in trip, and despite refusing to race on his return to the former track for the 1965 Chase, he then looked the likely winner of the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day before stumbling with the race at his mercy.

His final success came in the Denman Chase at Newbury in February, after which his Cheltenham Gold Cup bid was scuppered by a poor scope and he chased home Gerri Colombe to finish fourth at Aintree earlier this month.

Shishkin in full flight in the Denman Chase
Image: Shishkin in full flight in the Denman Chase

Shishkin was due to run in Wednesday's Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup, but fractured a hind leg after being cast in his box on Sunday and could not be saved.

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"It was horrendous to be honest with you, he just didn't deserve that," Henderson told Sky Sports Racing. "There was nothing we could do. We had an army of vets and the best people in the world but they couldn't repair it, I'm afraid.

"It's just tragic, but everyone has been quite remarkable and you just have to appreciate how popular a horse can become."

Henderson nominated his 12-length Arkle victory as a particular highlight, but rated his epic battle with Energumene as the peak of Shishkin's career.

He said: "He won six Grade Ones, it should have been seven, as he should have won the King George really and I believe he would have done.

"One of his greatest days was when he won the Arkle at Cheltenham, he was brilliant, but that match with Energumene at Ascot in the Clarence House was probably his greatest race, because he had to fight very hard that day.

"We were all set for Cheltenham and he couldn't go there, we were just really looking forward to Punchestown and he was due to leave this morning.

"He was a beautiful horse, earlier in the season we sent him off to Zara Tindall to do some dressage to keep him amused and they adored him over there too - he could have done anything.

"He was lovely, he was a very gentle person too - he was very kind."

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