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St Patrick’s Day special: Three top Irish National Hunt horses of recent times

| 17.03.2016

Coral take a look at the careers of the legendary Hurricane Fly, Istabraq and Moscow Flyer whose exploits earned them a place among National Hunt racing’s all-time greats.

We’re offering new and existing customers the chance to get a €/£5 free bet for every Irish trained horse that wins at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival this St Patrick’s Day when you put a €/£20 win single on the JLT Novices’ Chase.

Hurricane Fly

The 11-year-old’s record since joining trainer Willie Mullins in 2008 is truly phenomenal and has established him as one of the greatest hurdlers of all time. In 30 races over hurdles, he has triumphed 24 times and finished in the frame on five occasions.

Those exploits have secured him £1,821,519 in prize money, but what’s even more remarkable is that 22 of his successes have come in Grade 1 company.

That’s the most ever won by any horse, including the mighty Kauto Star and legendary US flat racer John Henry, both heroes in their own right.

It’s a testament to the skills of his trainer to produce him spot on for the big occasion, and also to the horse himself who is a pure talent and has the added attributes of guts and determination in his armoury.

He simply hates to be beaten, and when it comes to a battle never dodges the issue.

Among the Fly’s big race wins are two Champion Hurdles at Cheltenham in 2011 and 2013, and five consecutive Irish Champion Hurdle victories between 2011 and 2015.

Hurricane Fly winning 2013 Champion Hurdle:


Istabraq won three consecutive Champion Hurdles at Cheltnham in 1998, 1999 and 2000 to establish himself as one of the greatest hurdlers of the modern era.

The Aidan O’Brien trained gelding was a lightning fast jumper who had a high cruising speed and turn of foot which marked him out as something very special.

He won 23 of his 29 races over hurdles in the hands of top Irish jockey Charlie Swan, and his success in the 2000 running was a joy to watch as the pair cruised into the lead on the bridle at the final flight before sauntering clear to beat Hors La Loi III with consummate ease.

Istabraq and Swan were a match made in heaven, and the pair also captured four Irish Champion Hurdles in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001.

Put quite simply, Istabraq was a phenomenal horse who carried the weight of the nation on his shoulders whenever he ran and rarely failed to deliver.

He was a true champion of champions.

Istabraq winning 2000 Champion Hurdle:

Moscow Flyer

The Jessica Harrington trained Moscow Flyer remains one of the most popular horses of recent times and was a hero among Irish racing fans during a career which saw him score three times at the Cheltenham.

The gelding first signalled that he was something really special when putting in a super round of jumping win the Arkle in 2002 by four lengths in the hands of Barry Geraghty.

Moscow Flyer went on to win the 2003 Queen Mother Champion Chase with the minimum of fuss by seven lengths before unseating 12 months later when sent off the heavily-backed favourite to defend his crown.

Whether he would have prevailed but for coming to grief four from home we will never know, but the following season turned into something special and one which earned Moscow his legendary status.

Azertyuiop, who had gone on to win the Champion Chase in 2004, lined up against Moscow Flyer in the Tingle Creek at Sandown and the pair were joined by Arkle winner Well Chief.

The three of them came to the last together in a thrilling renewal, and it was Moscow Flyer who pulled clear on the run-in to land the spoils and bring the house down.

The three then returned to Cheltenham to do battle in the Champion Chase and it was Moscow Flyer who held off Well Chief to score by two lengths, with Azertyuiop a further 13 length back in third.

Moscow Flyer winning 2005 Tingle Creek:


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David Metcalf

A lifelong Manchester United supporter, David has over 25 years’ experience in the media industry having worked for regional and national newspapers. He is a huge horse racing, football and greyhound fan and has done interviews on various radio and TV stations, including talkSPORT and Sky Sports, whilst working as a PR front man for a betting firm. David has also written for most of the top Premier League football fan websites, and produced a Cheltenham Festival guide with former eight-times champion national hunt jockey Peter Scudamore, MBE, after helping him to set up a syndicate for his trainer son Michael.