The Greatest Racehorses - Ever

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sadler's Wells - Betty's Secret
Foaled 23/05/1992 Bay Gelding
Runs: 29 Wins: 23 Places: 3 Earned: £1,087,699
Flat Form: 2
NH Form: 211111 - 111112 - 1111111 -
12111F1F - 1P
Timeform: 174

Big Races

AIG Champion Hurdle Gr 1 2m (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001)
(UK) Champion Hurdle Gr 1 2m (1998, 1999, 2000)
December Hurdle Gr 1 2m (1997, 1998, 1999, 2001)
Hattons Grace Hurdle G1 2m 4f (1997, 1998)
Sun Alliance Hurdle Gr 1 2m 5f (1997)
Aintree Hurdle Gr 1 2m 4f (1999)


Istabraq was bred by and indeed race once on the flat for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, however despite finishing a one paced 2nd over a trip too short for him, he was sold at the end of year sales where he was snapped up by the late John Durkan who had a keen eye for a National Hunt horse. John pursauded JP McManus to buy Istabraq and flat racings loss was National Hunt's gain. Sadly John died before he had the chance to train Istabraq so the responsibilty fell to one Aidan O'Brien who is more famous for his flat string than his NH horses.

Champion Hurdle Glory

I had the pleasure of seeing Istabraq in the flesh twice at Cheltenham in the Champion Hurdle in 1999 for his 2nd bid for glory & 2000 for his 3rd successive victory. I remember Istabraq confidently tracked the race leaders in mid-field gradually making up ground from the half-way point. He took the lead going into the second flight from home and was already 1 1/2 lengths clear as he jumped the last. He remained in control as he powered up the hill to take the race by 3 1/2 lengths from the running on Theatreworld.

For his 2000 victory he raced much closer to the pace and made his winning move three flights out. Istabraq tracked race leader Hors La Loi III going into the next flight and landed righ upsides him, curtesy of a much better jump. He was still on the bit going into the final fligh while Hors La Loi III started to toil. Istabraq quickened clear, his nicely rounded stride taking up up the hill towards the winning post, without his jockey Charlie Swan having to break into a sweat. The winning margin was offically 4 lengths and being there I can wholeheartedly say I have NEVER heard such a roar from a race going crowd in my life. (below Istabraq - green & yellow colours - taking over the lead from the sadly ill fated French Holly in the 2000 Champion Hurdle)

Co-ed Jez:- I agree with you babe. I was there too - though not with TJ - and it still gives me goosebumps remembering the way he left his rivals for dust. If only he could have gotten a 4th one - damn foot & mouth.

A Falling Star

We were very nearly robbed of Istabraq's brilliance in the 2001 Shell Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in Ireland. He ran his usually waiting race he began to quicken and pass tired horses in the muddy ground. He came up alongside rising star Moscow Flyer (blog to follow later courtesy of Jez) swinging on the bridle, looking for all the world the winner however he got in too close to the final flight and he somersaulted head over heels, landing on his side in a muddy, crumpled heap. He lay winded on the ground for some time; everyone fearing the worst - that he's broken his neck in the crunching fall. When he rose to his feet he recieved as big, if not bigger a reception than the racewinner, Moscow Flyer did.

Simply The Best

I think I can speak for all of us when I say Istabraq was the best Hurdler of our generation, the like of which we probably won't see agian. He was unlucky as Jez mentioned not to solely own the crown of Four times back to back winner of the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle due to a horrific foot & mouth outbreak in 2001. To my mind he never looked right when lining up for his fourth attempt at the race in 2002, which proved correct as he was pulled up after just two jumps into the race. On 21 March Istabraq was offically retired due to the injury he'd sustained to his off hind (right) hock tendon after the second jump in the Champion Hurdle the previous week. (below a reception like no other. Istabraq is led into the crowded winners' enclosure after his 2000 Champion Hurdle win)

Where Are They Now?

Istabraq is now enjoying a well earned retirement at the Martinstown home of his owner JP McManus in County Limerick, Ireland. He now spends his days eating& sleeping & regularily participates in Ex-Champions parades before the Gr 1 hurdles he so brilliantly won during his racing career.

Not bad for a Sheikh's castoff.



Post a Comment

<< Home