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


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

Thursday, February 13, 2020
Samcro, ridden by Jack Kennedy, wins the Ballymore Novices' at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018

Samcro, ridden by Jack Kennedy, wins the Ballymore Novices' at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018


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 four successes - all ridden by leading race jockey Ruby Walsh - put him top of the historic standings.

Samcro, 2018

 
The hype horse of the season, Gordon Elliott’s Samcro arrived at Cheltenham with the weight of Irish expectation heaped on him and jockey Jack Kennedy. And how he delivered, winning effortlessly.

He'd been unbeaten in his previous seven starts, including an eye-catching victory at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival.

But this win seems a turning point in his career - unbeaten before it, he's won just once in his next seven races. 

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

Check out our Road to Cheltenham microsite with the best of the Irish challenge at the Festival

 

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

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