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Istabraq dominates as Leopardstown

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Mark Jones

DUBLIN — Istabraq, one of Ireland’s finest-ever jump horses, silenced any doubts over his form with a stunning performance in last Sunday’s Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. A faller over the same track on New Year’s Eve, Istabraq ran superbly on this occasion to give his owner, J.P. McManus, the chance of making history at the prestigious Cheltenham festival in March.

If McManus’s outstanding hurdler triumphs at Cheltenham it will be his fifth success in as many years at the festival and he will also become the first horse to win four Champion Hurdles in succession.

Despite a rumor mill that Istabraq may have been past his peak, a packed Leopardstown witnessed yet another totally convincing victory as he took advantage of a fall by Moscow Flyer at the second last fence to stride away from the challengers. Multi-millionaire McManus, who has amassed his personal fortune through financial and property investments, confessed to being anxious before the race. "I’m very relieved," he said, "Istabraq is just that little bit different to every other horse, he’s special."

Trainer Aidan O’Brien said he never had any doubts about the horse. "Even though he had fallen for the first time, he did everything we had hoped for and there’s a lot more to come still." The bookmakers seemed to agree making Istabraq 2/5 for Cheltenham, with his nearest rival, Geos, at 8/1.

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