By Andrew Atkinson Exclusive

Cheltenham Triumph Hurdle 1995 winner Kissair and 2000 Arkle winner Tiutchev, bred by Mrs D M Rothschild, continue to spend happy lives in retirement with Nikki Atkinson.

“Rabbit (Kissair) was 30 on March 7, having been gifted to me in 1999, a couple of months after my sister died of cancer,” Nikki told me, ahead of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.

“I was extremely sad, depressed and felt like my world had imploded,” said Teacher/Equestrian manager Nikki.

Kissair, trained by Martin Pipe, won the Triumph Hurdle in 1999, when beating Silver Wedge. He last raced in 2000 at Garthorpe, aged 9, when under trainer Nicky Henderson.

“This beautiful, kind, loving little horse was like the spirit of my sister and lifted me out of a dark place,” said Nikki, based at Winchester House School, Brackley, Northamptonshire.

“Possibly the most intelligent, loving horse I’ve ever known, having years of fun doing many different disciplines, P-T-P, a couple of times,” said Nikki.

“But when my dad died in 2000 I couldn’t bear to run the risk of anything happening to him, so we just played after that.

Cheltenham Festival
Cheltenham Festival

“He is a happy, healthy, bonny chap, that loves his creature comforts. The thought of him leaving me is too much to bear I must confess!,” said Nikki.

Nikki said of 2000 Arkle winner Tuitchev: “Tuitchev, who won the Arkle, Grade A and 1 races is now 28 – and living the life a horse should do.”

Tuitchev started his racing career on the Flat under trainer Roger Charlton, having been foaled in 1993. Henrietta Knight, David Nicholson also trained him, winning £445,000 prizemoney, during an illustrious career. Tuitchev retired in 2005.

Major wins include Lanzarote Hurdle (1999), Arkle Challenge Trophy (2000), Swordlestown Cup Novice Chase (2000), Ascot Chase (2001, 2003) and Martell Cognac Cup Chase (2004).

Caption: Cheltenham Triumph Hurdle winner Kissair far left, with Arkle winner Tuitchev (far right). Photo: courtesy Nikki Atkinson.