Seven days ago, it was sadly announced that Altior, the best of a generation, had been retired by Nicky Henderson. Rated 175 at his peak, he won nineteen races on the bounce, including a pair of Champion Chase crowns in 2018 and 2019.
He’ll go down as one of the all time greats, bowing out after four Cheltenham Festival victories and 21 total wins from 26 starts. There will understandably be a void to fill at Seven Barrows, but I think there’s a horse who can slot right into the starring role.
In fact, he may end up being better than the great Altior. This season is set to be his coronation and you can find all the details about the horse below.
The New King of Seven Barrows
It’ll come as no surprise to anyone, that the horse I’m flagging up for the role is Shishkin. He has gone from strength to strength for Henderson, ending his hurdling career by winning the Supreme in gutsy fashion. Fences were always going to be his game, however, and he produced some frightening performances last season.
A perfect five from five last term, he was simply a class above the novice division. He’s passed every test with flying colours, winning a pair of Grade 2 races at Kempton and Doncaster before his tilt at the Arkle. That race ultimately fell apart with Energumene omitting, but an RPR of 174 is an ideal illustration of how perfect the performance was.
At this stage of his career, it’s hard not to suggest he’s on a par with both Altior and Sprinter Sacre, in terms of career development.
Arrogant Shishkin ready to thrive
Speaking at his annual owners’ day, Henderson could scarcely believe the condition Shishkin had returned to him in. As quoted in the Racing Post, Henderson said: “After Shishkin had been out in the field for three or four weeks I looked at him with Charlie Vigors, whom he spent the summer with, and wouldn’t believe it was him. There were ten in the field and I said, ‘Where’s Shishkin?”
Henderson continued to say: “He’s grown and I think he’s got that arrogance of Sprinter and Altior, although he’s got to earn that. You can be arrogant only when you are the top dog and he’s got to prove it, but he’s got through the Supreme and Arkle and we’ll look at the Tingle Creek and the usual two-mile path.”
A defining season
His first big test will be in the Tingle Creek, the first Grade 1 of the campaign for the two-mile chasers. Won by both Sprinter Sacre and Altior, it’s a test that Shishkin will need to pass, but he’s more than capable of doing so. From there, it’ll set up the clash we’ve all been waiting for against Energumene.
People were in two camps last year. You were either in the Energumene camp, who thought the Willie Mullins-trained speedball would run Shishkin ragged, or you were in the right camp, the Shishkin camp. This campaign is going to be his coronation, and I really think he’ll usurp Altior in the Henderson pecking order.
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