The Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin outstayed the Gordon Elliott-trained Abacadabras up the famous hill to win a dramatic running of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at odds of 6-1.
After a false start, the famous roar sent the 15 runners on their way for the opening race of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival with the Willie Mullins-trained Asterion Forlonge, like the winner sporting the colours of former Cork bookmaker Joe Donnolly, leading the way.
However, as has been his wont, the 9-4 favourite jumped markedly to his right, a tendency that was to have race-ending consequences for two of his rivals at the third last flight.
Asterion Forlonge was still in front when he veered wildly to his right to collide with stablemate Elixir D’Ainay, who in turn brought down Captain Guinness with Shishkin, who had survived a significant error earlier, perhaps fortunate to avoid the melee.
However, he still had plenty of work to do as Abacadabras seemed to be going best of all and when he took it up on the run to the last it looked all over.
However, Shishkin, a significant market drifter before the off, responded to Nico de Boinville’s urgings to draw level on the run to the last and just about had his head in front at the line, a timely boost for the winning trainer and jockey after Altior was ruled out of tomorrow’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Chantry House was back in third.
Reflecting on how the race unfolded, De Boinville conceded it hadn’t all been plain sailing.
“It wasn't a very nice experience if I'm being honest, everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” he admitted. “But it just shows what a good horse he is and I can't wait for him to go chasing next season.
“I pulled him out at the top of the hill to get a bit of daylight and then he picked up again. This is a big relief and great to get on the board, especially after the disappointment of Altior tomorrow. It's great to get one on the board and great for the team.”
Henderson said: “He has got those gears and he needed them to get out of the trouble he had got into.”
A gracious Elliott said of the runner-up: “He’s run a great race, we’re gutted we didn’t win but the horse ran his heart out, he got beaten a head, the way the race worked out we probably got to the front too soon but he jumped great and didn’t do anything wrong. We’ve got to smile and look forward, he could be a Champion Hurdle horse next year.”