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Owner of Istabraq JP McManus
"We'll celebrate this one in style"
 real 28k

Winning jockey Charlie Swan
"Relief is more apt because everybody was expecting him to win"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 14 March, 2000, 17:54 GMT
Istabraq claims Cheltenham treble

Charlie Swan celebrates Istabraq's victory
Istabraq has entered racing's record books after securing a third successive win in the Champion Hurdle on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival.

It was a worrying time. I don't know what it was but we'll take him home and have a look. He was just on the edge today, any hassle and he was going to blow up. But Charlie was supreme, he had no worries.

Aidan O'Brien
Jockey Charlie Swan gave the Irish horse - an overwhelming favourite for the big race at 8-15 - a supreme run as it romped to victory by four lengths from Hors La Loi III.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained contender shrugged off a late health scare to become the fifth horse in Cheltenham history to win three Champion Hurdles in a row.

Make A Stand made the early running, setting a blistering pace - but Istabraq moved onto the heels of the leaders at the third last.

Tiutchev gave Mick Fitzgerald the first of two winning rides
And an electrifying burst of pace took him to the front of the field at the last - to the delight of his huge band of supporters.

The first race of the festival produced a shock, as 14-1 outsider Sausalito Bay beat the highly-fancied Youllneverwalkalone into third place in the Supreme Novices Hurdle.

Sausalito Bay's victory gave the huge Irish contingent, who traditionally make their way over to the West Country course, something to cheer about right at the start of jumping's showpiece event.

When I heard last night, I got a nosebleed myself. But I knew Aidan would make the right decision. Full marks to him. I can't describe the way I feel. It's been a great day, very exciting - open the champagne!

Istabraq owner JP McManus
The star jockey of the day was Mick Fitzgerald, who took Tiutchev home in The Arkle and then finished the day by winning the National Hunt Handicap with Marlborough.

In the build-up to the feature race, all Irish eyes had been on the nose of one of the country's star horses, after Istabraq suffered an 11th hour scare when a trickle of blood was spotted on his nose.

But after a medical on Tuesday morning, trainer O'Brien decided to give the eight-year-old the green light to take part.

Istabraq is unbeaten over two miles since his first race over the distance and has completed the fourth hat-trick in race history and the first since See You Then in 1987.

Champion Hurdle treble-winners
Hatton's Grace 1949-51
Sir Ken 1952-4
Persian War 1968-70
See You Then 1985-7
Istabraq 1998-2000
Interest in the festival is as high as ever with 50,000 badges and tickets all sold.

Officials at the course warned that anyone without access to the course will be wasting their time turning up in Cheltenham.

As usual the Irish have arrived in large numbers, and are confident of equalling their best haul of seven winners in 1996.

Cheltenham day one results:

14:00 Supreme Novices Hurdle
1 Sausalito Bay (P Carberry) 14-1
2 Best Mate (J Culloty) 6-1
3 Youlneverwalkalone (C O'Dwyer) 5-4 Fav

14:35 Arkle
1 Tiutchev (M A Fitzgerald) 8-1
2 Cenkos (D J Casey) 10-1
3 Decoupage (N Williamson) 7-4 Fav

15:15 Champion Hurdle
1 Istabraq (C F Swan) 8-15 Fav
2 Hors La Loi III (D Gallagher) 11-1
3 Blue Royal (M A Fitzgerald) 16-1

15:55 National Hunt Handicap
1 Marlborough (M A Fitzgerald) 11-2
2 Beau (C Llewellyn) 5-1 Jt Fav
3 Star Traveller (A Thornton) 6-1

16:30 Fulke Walwyn/Kim Muir H'cap Cup
1 Honey Mount (Mr R Walford) 8-1
2 Marching Marquis (Mr T Gibney) 33-1
3 Supreme Charm (Mr D Flavin) 16-1
4 Clifton Set (Mr B Hitchcott) 20-1

17:05 Handicap Hurdle
1 Rubhahunish (C Llewellyn) 8-1
2 Take Five (N Williamson) 7-1
3 Font Romeu (B Fenton) 14-1
4 Darapour (C F Swan) 4-1 Fav
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16 Mar 99 | Sport
Istabraq cruises to victory
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