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SireSadler's Wells
DamBetty's Secret
BreederShadwell Estate Co.
OwnerSheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum
John P. McManus
TrainerAidan O'Brien
Record40: 25-7-0
11: 2-4-0 (Flat)
29: 23-3-0 (Hurdle)
Major wins
Champion Hurdle (1998, 1999, 2000)
Irish Champion Hurdle (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001)
Future Champions Novice Hurdle (1996)
Royal Bond Novice Hurdle (1996)
Deloitte Novice Hurdle (1997)
Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle (1997)
Punchestown Champion Novice Hurdle (1997)
Hatton's Grace Hurdle (1997, 1998)
December Festival Hurdle (1997, 1998, 1999, 2001)
Aintree Hurdle (1999)
Punchestown Champion Hurdle (1999)
John James McManus Memorial Hurdle (1997, 1998, 1999)
Timeform rating: 180
Istabraq Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown
Last updated on December 18, 2006

Istabraq (born 23 May 1992) is a retired Irish Thoroughbred racehorse who was most famous for his hurdling. He won the Champion Hurdle on three occasions. He was trained by Aidan O'Brien and owned by John Patrick McManus. Jockey Charlie Swan rode him in all of his 29 races over jumps.

Early life[edit]

Istabraq was bred for the flat, being by Sadler's Wells, who won the Irish 2,000 Guineas over 1 mile. Istabraq was tried unsuccessfully over a mile and failed to please his handlers and owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Shadwell Racing and a partner in his family's Godolphin Stables.

Jumps racing[edit]

The horse was sold to John Durkan who had been an assistant to John Gosden with the Baring Bingham Novices' Hurdle as the target for the Cheltenham Festival.[1] Durkan started training the horse but was diagnosed with leukemia and suggested that Aidan O'Brien train Istabraq while he was ill. The agreement was that when Durkan recovered, he would take over the training. However, he died just before Istabraq won the 1998 Irish Champion Hurdle. O'Brien continued to train the horse afterwards, and Durkan remained in the thoughts of the horse's connections.[2] When riding the horse back after his 1998 Champion Hurdle win, jockey Charlie Swan said, 'This one's for John,' in an interview with Channel 4's Lesley Graham.

1996/1997: Novice hurdler[edit]

On 16 November 1996 Istabraq made his hurdling debut and lost by a head to Noble Thyne at Punchestown.[1] Before his next race Istabraq was gelded. He won his next three races prior to the Cheltenham Festival. There he won the Royal & Sun Alliance Novice Hurdle from Mighty Moss.


Istabraq won the first four races of the season. In his fifth race of the season he started as favourite for the 1998 Champion Hurdle. Last years winner Make A Stand was a notable absence but the runner up Theatreworld returned as one of the 18 runners. Istabraq moved to the front three out before he accelerated rounding the home turn. The Champion Hurdle then became a procession in the home straight, as Istabraq won by 12 lengths from Theatreworld.[3][4] The conditions for the Aintree Hurdle were soft, heavy in places with Istabraq the favourite.[5] However Istabraq came second to Pridwell to end Istabraq's 10 race winning streak.[4] This was Istabraq's last race of the season.


Like last season, Istabraq won his first four races. In his fifth race of the season he started the 1999 Champion Hurdle as favourite. He won by ​3 12 lengths from Theatreworld to win his second Champion Hurdle. In the next race he beat French Holly at the Aintree Hurdle. He won his last race of the season at the Punchestown festival.


Istabraq had his first start of the season in October at Tipperary in the John James McManus Memorial Hurdle. He beat Limestone Lad by 7 lengths. There was a rematch for Istabraq's second start of the season in the Hattons Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse. This time Istabraq came second losing by ​5 12 lengths to Limestone Lad also in soft conditions.[6] Despite the loss Istabraq started the 2000 Champion Hurdle as favourite. He won by 4 lengths from Hors La Loi III. This victory was Istabraq's fourth straight win at the Cheltenham Festival. This was his last race of the season.


He made his reappearance at Leopardstown for the December Festival Hurdle. He battled with Moscow Flyer before he fell at the last. This was the first time Istabraq fell.[7] The race was won by Moscow Flyer. After the race winning jockey Barry Geraghty said "I thought I had Istabraq beat going to the last, I was the only one going in the right direction."[7] Istabraq's jockey Charlie Swan however said "He was tired but he always finds something, however, he's always been vulnerable in those sort of conditions. He felt well and as good as ever during the race."[7] On his next start, Istabraq won but this time Moscow Flyer fell. In Istabraq's next start, Istabraq again fell at the final flight, with Moscow Flyer the winner. After Istabraq won the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle near the end of January he was the odds on ante post favourite for the 2001 Champion Hurdle.[8] However before the 2001 Cheltenham Festival, cases of foot and mouth disease started to appear in Britain.[9] The festival was therefore abandoned.[9]


Istabraq reappeared the following season to defeat Bust Out by a head in the December Festival Hurdle. In the 2002 Champion Hurdle Istabraq was the favourite of the 15 runners. However Swan pulled him up after 2 hurdles. The race was won by Hors La Loi III. After the race Swan said "I jumped the first and his action went. I jumped the second and thought he might get a bit better but he didn't and I just thought, for the good of the horse, to pull him up".[10] Istabraq was later found to have pulled muscles in his back.[11] Istabraq was retired after the race.


After retirement Istabraq was moved to Martinstown home of owner JP McManus.[12]


Pedigree of Istabraq, bay gelding, 1992[13]
Sadler's Wells (USA)
b. 1981
Northern Dancer (CAN)
b. 1961
Nearctic (CAN)
br. 1954
Nearco (ITY)
Lady Angela (GB)
Natalma (USA)
b. 1957
Native Dancer (USA)
Almahmoud (USA)
Fairy Bridge (USA)
b. 1975
Bold Reason (USA)
b. 1968
Hail To Reason (USA)
Lalun (USA)
Special (USA)
b. 1969
Forli (ARG)
Thong (USA)
Betty's Secret (USA)
ch. 1977
Secretariat (USA)
ch. 1970
Bold Ruler (USA)
b. 1954
Nasrullah (GB)
Miss Disco (USA)
Somethingroyal (USA)
b. 1952
Princequillo (IRE)
Imperatrice (USA)
Betty Loraine (USA)
ch. 1965
Prince John (USA)
ch. 1953
Princequillo (IRE)
Not Afraid (USA)
Gay Hostess (USA)
ch. 1957
Royal Charger (GB)
Your Hostess (USA)

Note: b. = Bay, br. = Brown, ch. = Chestnut

  • Through his dam he is inbred 4x4 to Princequillo. This means that the stallion appears twice in the fourth generation of his pedigree.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Byrne, Cormac. "From tragedy to triumph - It's 20 years since Istabraq's bittersweet moment of greatness at Cheltenham -". Archived from the original on 11 March 2018. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  2. ^ Muscat, Julian. "Julian Muscat looks at the all-too-brief life of John Durkan". Racing Post. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  3. ^ "1998 Champion Hurdle Blast From The Past | Istabraq". Timeform. Archived from the original on 28 February 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b McCoy, Tony (10 February 2009). "Tony McCoy looks back over his thrilling career so far". Telegraph. Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  5. ^ "Full Result | 14:55 Martell Aintree Hurdle | Aintree | Sky Sports Horse Racing". Archived from the original on 4 April 1998. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  6. ^ Wood, Greg. "Istabraq flop fails to deter O'Brien". The Independent. Archived from the original on 29 November 2009. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Armytage, Marcus (31 December 2000). "Istabraq is the fallen hero". Telegraph. Archived from the original on 31 December 2000. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  8. ^ "Champion Istabraq back to his true brilliance". 22 January 2001. Archived from the original on 22 January 2001. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  9. ^ a b Fleetwood-Jones, Colin (2 April 2001). "Foot and mouth: Festival and Six Nations give up the fight". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 2 April 2001.
  10. ^ "Istabraq pulled up in Champion Hurdle". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 17 March 2002. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  11. ^ Baxter, David. "Cheltenham drama - five great day one memories - Equine Advertiser". Archived from the original on 13 March 2017. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  12. ^ Hunt, Joanne. "Istabraq: Three-time champion hurdle winner who gifted Cheltenham to the Irish". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 31 August 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  13. ^ Michelson, Miles. "Istabraq Horse Pedigree". Retrieved 21 June 2018.

External links[edit]