Champion Hurdle hero Istabraq to make Leopardstown appearance

Stan James

Tagged under: 3.20 Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1)

Retired Cheltenham Festival hero Istabraq will make a public appearance at Leopardstown racecourse over the festive period.

The triple Champion Hurdle winner will be on parade prior to the inaugural running of the Istabraq Festival Hurdle on 29 December. It is a fitting honour to name the Festival Hurdle after the JP McManus-owned star, who won the race four times while making his way to the Cheltenham Festival.

His former riding partner Charlie Swan said: "Istabraq was an amazing horse.

"He had everything, speed, wonderful jump, the works. He still holds the record time for the Champion Hurdle in Cheltenham. He was truly a once-in-a-lifetime horse. It was great that he is owned by a wonderful owner, JP McManus and his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, wasn't too bad either.

"The Festival Hurdle was always a stepping stone on the way to Cheltenham. It will be great to see him back in Leopardstown again."

Istabraq won the Festival Hurdle four times from 1999-2001. He suffered his only defeat in the race when falling in the 2000 renewal which was won by Moscow Flyer. His trainer Aiden O’Brien used the Leopardstown Christmas meeting as a stepping stone to the Cheltenham Fetsival where Istabraq won the Sun Alliances Novices Hurdle in 1997 before going on to win the Champion Hurdle on three successive occasions between 1998 and 2000.

He was forced to miss the Cheltenham Festival in 2001 but returned the following year when he went off 2/1 favourite in his attempt to become the first horse to win the Champion Hurdle four times. Sadly, Istabraq was pulled up early in the race won by Hors La Loi III and he was retired soon afterwards.

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