I can almost hear the Cheltenham Roar already, as the prestigious four day festival nears and punters pick apart the declarations in search for the best tips for Cheltenham. Let us take a trip down memory lane at one of the more noteworthy thoroughbred horses to take part over the years.
Hardy Eustace, owned by Laurence Byrne and trained throughout his career by Dessie Hughes at The Curragh, Co. Kildare, is best remembered for his victories in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2004 and 2005.
However, the Archway gelding made his first trip across the Irish Sea in 2003, beating the subsequently disqualified Coolnagorma by 1½ lengths in the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle. He was subsequently beaten out of sight by Iris’s Gift in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree and, despite winning a 30-runner maiden at Navan in October, was beaten on his first four starts over hurdles in 2003/04, including once at odds of 1/4.
By the time he lined up, in first-time blinkers, alongside Rooster Booster and company in the Champion Hurdle, he was probably, justifiably, a 33/1 chance. However, in the race itself he barely saw another rival and, despite being joined by Rooster Booster at the last flight, drew away again on the run-in to win by 5 lengths. He returned to defend his title in 2005 and, once again, made most of the running, holding on gamely to beat Harchibald and Brave Inca by a neck and the same
He never won at Cheltenham Festival again, but finished third in the Champion Hurdle in 2006, fourth in the Champion Hurdle in 2007, twelfth in the World Hurdle in 2008 and ninth – as a 12-year-old, at 100/1 – in the Champion Hurdle in 2009. When he was retired later that year, he’d won 12 of his 41 starts over hurdles and just over £1 million in total prize money.