NICKY Henderson celebrated a double on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Earlier, he met with the bitter disappointment of having to rule stable star Altior out of the Champion Chase due to injury, but the Lambourn trainer had plenty to smile about when he left the course on Tuesday.

"We say it every year, that something will come and bite you and sadly this year it was Altior, so it's a relief to begin with a winner," he said after Shishkin had taken the opening race, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Having been the ante-post favourite, Shishkin drifted out to 6/1 by the off, but got the better of the heavily-backed Abacadabras (11/4) in a thrilling finishing, holding on by a neck in the hands of Nico De Boinville.

"He was one of our more powerful shots of the week," commented Henderson, who also saddled the third Chantry House and fifth Allart.

Henderson was back in the winner's enclosure with 2/1 favourite Epatante after the Unibet Champion Hurdle.

Barry Geraghty's mount travelled strongly throughout the race and powered up the hill to win by three lengths ahead of Irish raider Sharjah (16/1).

It was a fourth successive win in the race for owner JP McManus, who was celebrating his birthday, and his ninth in total.

Henderson commented said: "She was always travelling quite well, I was always pleased with where she was. Barry gave her a beautiful ride. She has the gears."

The 3m 1f handicap chase, sponsored by Reading company Ultima Business Solutions, was won by 15/2 chance The Conditional, ridden by Brendan Powell for Gloucester trainer David Bridgwater.

Sonning-based Max McNeill, the company founder, saw his runner, Mulcahys Hill (33/1) finish 12th in the 23-runner field.