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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 April 2003, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Charlie's swansong
Charlie Swan on Istabraq in 2000
Swan won the Champions Hurdle three times with Istabraq
That Charlie Swan chose Grand National day to end his 20-year riding career is only appropriate for a jockey of his status.

But it is for his achievements at the Cheltenham Festival with triple Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq that the unassuming Irishman will be forever remembered.

Swan's Festival record is quite simply sensational.

He has the most prodigious return of winners of all the present-day jockeys in the weighing room and picked up the leading jockey title on two occasions.

But, it comes as little surprise that Swan cites his three Champion Hurdle victories aboard Istabraq as the the highlights of his career.

Istabraq, owned by JP McManus, was a 17-1 long shot at one point in the build-up to the first leg of his champion Cheltenham treble, in 1998.

But on the day, Swan and his mount staged a tremendous charge in the home straight to spark wild celebrations around the circuit and in their native land.

Profile
Date of birth: 12 January 1968
Place of birth: Co Tipperary
First winner: Final Assault at Naas, March, 1983
Champion Irish jump jockey: 1988/9, 1989/90, 1990/1, 1991/2, 1992/3, 1993/4, 1994/5, 1995/6, 1996/7, 1997/8
1,000th winner (flat and jumps): Rainbow Frontier at Listowel in September 1997
Cheltenham Festival wins: 17

"I'd never seen so many people in the paddock there after a race," Swan later said.

"Everyone wanted to be in there to get a piece of him. I loved that. He loved it too."

Swan and Istabraq teamed up again to win the Champion Hurdle twice more in the following years.

And many believe that Swan, McManus and Istabraq were only denied a historic fourth victory when the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease led to the cancellation of the 2001 meeting.

Swan's rise to become the dominant rider in Irish racing for over a decade was hardly surprising given his heritage.

His great-great-grandfather Tom Chaloner won the 1863 Derby on Macaroni, while great-grandfather George Chaloner was second in the 1895 Derby on Curzon and later a successful trainer.

And five years ago, Swan took over his father's training stable and now includes nine horses belonging to McManus along with others owned by Seamus Ross and Martin Ryan.

Charlie Swan rides Istabraq to Champion Hurdle victory in 1998
Swan and Istabraq won a thrilling Champion Hurdle in 1998

Having ridden his first winner at the age of 16 in 1983, Swan went on to win his first Irish jockeys' championship in 1990 and retained the title up to and including the 1997-98 season.

Swan was only deposed as champion Irish rider after electing to quit the fences in order to concentrate on his training career.

His stable has already spawned a major winner, This Is Serious landing the Tote Eider National at Newcastle and the Cork Grand National in 2002.

But whatever else Swan achieves in an already illustrious career, the Irishman knows he will never better his exploits with Istabraq.

"I get a bigger buzz from training a winner than riding one," he said.

"When Serious won at Newcastle I punched the air - and my ambition is to win at Cheltenham.

"But there will never be another Istabraq."



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