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Last Updated: Monday, 3 March, 2003, 18:21 GMT
Hurdling greats
Three horses who became part of hurdling history.

Istabraq

Charlie Swan and Istabraq were a winning combination
Charlie Swan and Istabraq were a winning combination
Istabraq has become an Irish legend, one of only five horses to win the Champion Hurdle three times.

Sired by the prolific stallion Sadler's Wells, Istabraq won two of his 11 races on the Flat for John Gosden.

Gosden's assistant, John Durkan, who was embarking on his own training career, persuaded JP McManus to buy the horse and send him hurdling.

Istabraq was sent to be trained by Aidan O'Brien while Durkan battled - ultimately unsuccessfully - against leukaemia.

Istabraq won the Royal & SunAlliance Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham in 1997 and the following year took the Champion Hurdle by 12 lengths, the widest margin for 66 years.

Many believe that but for the cancellation of the 2001 Cheltenham festival because of foot-and-mouth disease, Istabraq would have become the first horse to win four Champion Hurdles.

He attempted that in 2002 but his preparations had been blighted by injury and he was pulled up after just two flights.

Istabraq won 23 of his 29 races over hurdles (ridden every time by Charlie Swan) and made over 1m in prize money.


Sea Pigeon

Sea Pigeon's claim to greatness lay in his versatility which saw him pick up top prizes under both Flat and National Hunt codes.

He won two Champion Hurdles after twice being edged out by Monksfield in previous years.

His victory in 1981 after a daringly well-timed run under jockey John Francome, meant he was only the second 11-year-old ever to win National Hunt's top hurdle race.

His jumping record also includes two victories in the Scottish Champion Hurdle and the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and a win in the Welsh Champion Hurdle.

But while other horses were resting during the summer, Sea Pigeon was notching up victories on the Flat for his trainer Peter Easterby.

His 16 victories on the level included two Chester Cups but his greatest Flat triumph came in the Tote Ebor Handicap at York in 1979.

Carrying 10 stone (the highest winning weight of the 20th century in the race), he won the prestigious handicap by a short head.

Sea Pigeon died in 2000 at the age of 30.


Dawn Run

Dawn Run and Jonjo O'Neill en route to winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup
Dawn Run wrote herself into the history books at Cheltenham
Dawn Run's legend relies more on her ability to win at the highest level in both hurdling and chasing but it was in the former that she first made her name.

And the Irish mare's place in National Hunt history is secure despite her life being cut short at the age of eight.

She is the only horse to have won the blue riband events of hurdling and chasing - Cheltenham's Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup.

Trained by Paddy Mullins, she was an odds-on favourite for the Champion Hurdle in 1984 and only just squeaked home under Jonjo O'Neill.

Her chasing record was by no means awesome and her preparations for her first and only tilt at the Gold Cup in 1986 had not been ideal.

But the hat-tossing scenes at Cheltenham after she rallied from behind to edge out Wayward Lad on the run-in will go down in memory as one of racing's greatest days.

However, after the heights of ecstasy, the depths of despair soon followed.

Dawn Run hit the deck in her next outing and three races later broke her neck in another fall in a French hurdle race.

Her win ratio - 21 from 35 races - is impressive but it is for her Cheltenham double that Dawn Run will be remembered and a statue was erected at the scene of her unique triumph.





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