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REWIND | Istabraq storms home in the 1998 Champion Hurdle

Istabraq produced an iconic performance under Aidan O’Brien in his first of three Champion Hurdle victories

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ISTABRAQ RIDDEN BY CHARLIE SWAN CHELTENHAM RACECOURSE CHELTENHAM 12 March 2002
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Aidan O’Brien is known for his huge level of success throughout the flat racing world, but the Ballydoyle trainer helped produce a superstar two-mile hurdler in the nineties; Istabraq.

Bought by JP McManus in 1996, Istabraq was not initially bred for jumps as he made 11 starts on the flat under John Gosden.

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 13, 2019 Racehorse owner JP McManus as he arrives REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
JP McManus bought Istabraq at the Tattersalls Horses-in-Training sales in July 1996

However, after only landing two victories in the flat sphere, John Durkan spotted his potential as a hurdler and convinced McManus to pay 38,000 guineas for the horse.

Durkan was lined up to train the son of Sadler’s Well, but he was unfortunately diagnosed with leukemia and O’Brien was given the task of training Istabraq temporarily.

After winning five of his six starts as a novice including the Baring Bingham (Ballymore) Novices’ Hurdle in the 1996/97 season, Istabraq remained in the hurdles division.

Istabraq
Istabraq won 23 of his 29 starts over hurdles

He won his first three starts with ease the following season but four days before the 1998 Irish Champion Hurdle, Durkan sadly passed away at the age of 31.

After landing success at Leopardstown, the then six-year-old was tasked with the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

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There were fears that Istabraq would not have the speed to contest the prestigious two-mile contest, but he cast those doubts aside with arguably one of his best performances of his career.

The gelding travelled well throughout the race and took command when taking the lead at three out.

WATCH: ISTABRAQ WINS THE 1998 CHAMPION HURDLE FOR AIDAN O’BRIEN [CREDIT: RACING TV]

Charlie Swan kicked his mount on and Istabraq cleared away, claiming a 12-length victory from stablemate Theatreworld.

Swan struggled to hold back the tears in the post-race interview, stating “This is for John.”

Istabraq went on to win the next two renewals of the Champion Hurdle, as well as claiming another three victories in the Irish edition of the contest.

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