Festival throwback: Relive Irish success in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle

Many greats, including the legendary Istabraq, first tasted Festival success in this race

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Faugheen, ridden by Ruby Walsh, wins the race at the Cheltenham Festival in 2014

Many greats have franked their form in this novice hurdle, run over an intermediate 2 miles and 5 furlongs.

Irish trainers enjoyed great success in the 1970s with Mick O’Toole and Paddy Mullins both saddling winners while Edward O’Grady was a two-time winning trainer in the 1980s.

However, Willie Mullins’s five successes - four of which were ridden by leading race jockey Ruby Walsh - put him top of the historic standings.

Sir Gerhard, 2022

The latest of Mullins' successes came a year ago when Sir Gerhard backed up his Champion Bumper win from the year before with a comfortable win.

Paul Townend rode the favourite perfectly to put him in the position to pull away for victory and when Journey with Me and 2021 winning jockey Rachael Blackmore fell at the last, there was only going to be one winner as Mullins extended his lead at the top of the standings in this race.


Bob Olinger, 2021

The second of Rachael Blackmore's six victories at the 2021 Festival, this was a perfectly-timed charge.

Harry Cobden set the tempo on Bravemansgame but Blackmore kept the favourite in the hunt before finding a way between Cobden's contender and Bear Ghylls.

The final hurdle was navigated comfortably as Bob Olinger pulled away to win by seven-and-a-half lengths - before backing it up a year later to win the Turners Novices' Chase in last year's Festival.

Faugheen, 2014

A dominant force in the market heading into the 2014 edition of this race, Faugheen showed just what a bright future he would go on to have with a commanding win.

Faugheen bested a good field to earn a maiden Grade 1 win in a quick race, the time significantly faster than that for the Coral Cup - the overall time of 4m 54.80s was the second fastest in the history of the race at the time in fact.

Istabraq, 1997

Aidan O'Brien knew he had a live one on his hands the moment Istabraq flashed across the line in a tight three-way finish, pinging the last fence and powering up Cheltenham's fabled hill.

O'Brien had won the race the year before with Urubande, again with Charlie Swan in the saddle.

However, this win was special and within moments people were discussing his chances in the following year's Champion Hurdle, a race he was to win a record-equalling three times.

"Before the race he got a bit excited and revved up but Charlie rode the perfect race on him," recalls O'Brien.

READ: Remembering John Durkan, the man who discovered Istabraq

Danoli, 1994

Trained by Tom Foley at his stables near Bagenalstown in County Carlow, there were few more popular Irish horses in the 1990s than Danoli.

Noted for this rivalry with Dorans Pride, he quickly established himself as the ‘People’s Champion’.

This was his only Cheltenham success but he remained the horse of a lifetime for Foley.

"He's given us some great memories and is a horse we'll hardly ever see the like of again,” he said, after he retired in 2000.

Danoli spent the rest of his life at the Irish National Stud in Kildare, becoming inseparable from another favourite race horse from the 1990s, the Melbourne Cup winner Vintage Crop.  

READ: Relive Irish success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup


He's given us some great memories and is a horse we'll hardly ever see the like of again.
- Tom Foley on Danoli