Shishkin is perhaps the only horse in history to possess the talent and desire required to have pulled off his remarkable finish to beat previously unbeaten chaser Energumene in a Clarence House thriller, according to Sky Sports Racing’s senior analyst Jamie Lynch.
Nicky Henderson’s stable star took centre stage in the biggest clash of the season at Ascot on Saturday as he did battle with Willie Mullins’ Irish hero in an epic duel at the Berkshire track.
Shishkin had looked in serious trouble turning for home, with rider Nico de Boinville urging every effort from his mount, while Paul Townend and Energumene appeared to be in cruise control as they upped the tempo and went for broke.
The Ascot crowd, who had gathered in appreciation of both, but seemed to save their loudest cheers for the home hero, as one let out audible gasps as Shishkin clambered over the final two flights, losing precious milliseconds to his brave rival.
But, with the line no more than 50 yards away and under a final drive from De Boinville, Shishkin mustered up the energy to launch a late thrust forward and powered past Townend and Energumene to claim his fourth Grade One victory and follow in the footsteps of former Henderson-trainer Clarence House winners Altior and Sprinter Sacre.
“It was a canny ride by Paul Townend,” Lynch said. “He asked Energumene to do something different and not try and break them in the third quarter, but at the point of turning in.
“It was hurting Shishkin and he had to push through the pain from Energumene’s pressure.
“It’s testament to Shishkin’s ability, but also his resolution that he comes through in the end and he wasn’t quite on point at the vital last two fences.
“It was breath-taking. You very rarely see any two-miler in history able to finish on the run-in at Ascot against a horse like that after no quite meeting the last [fence] quite right.
“It’s all about the horses, but the pressure on the jockeys on the day to ride and manage these two beasts. It was brilliant to watch the strategy of Paul Townend and the strength of Nico de Boinville.
“It was everything we hoped for and a bit more on top. It rarely lives up to the hype when you build up two big horses like this, but this did.
“It was two outstanding chasers doing what they are best at all the way to the line. There were blows landed by each and it to-and-froed all the way up the back straight.
“Shishkin needed everything he had to claw back Energumene. It was a thriller from start to finish.
“You can count on one hand the number of horses in history who could have caught Energumene today, given how good he is and the ride he got. It’s almost illogical that Shishkin was able to catch him.
I’m still shaking, that was one of the greatest races I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching live on track, I think we’ll all look back in 10 years time and still being saying wow, remember that day Shishkin out battled Energumene at Ascot.
— Stephen R Power (@racingblogger) January 22, 2022
“Energumene can do things differently to try and change the result and the impact upon Shishkin but what Shishkin has proved time and again in his chasing career is whatever you throw at him, he comes up with the answers.
“He’s standing on the shoulders of giants. He’s an amalgamation of Sprinter Sacre and Altior because he’s got the cruise of Sprinter and the finishing surge of Altior and he needed both.”