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A shining light in golden age of stayers but he was not touched by greatness; RETIREMENT OF A FESTIVAL LEGEND.

Byline: John Randall says Inglis Drever's three festival wins do not entitle him to top billing

AS THE only horse to win the World Hurdle at Cheltenham three times, Inglis Drever was a champion with a special place in racing history.

He helped to make the staying division of hurdlers at least the equal of the two-milers in terms of quality, but it would be an exaggeration to call him a great horse.

Inglis Drever was a dual champion because according to both the official ratings, as published in the Anglo-Irish jumps classifications, and Racing Post Ratings, he was the best hurdler in the staying category (2m4f-plus) in 2004-05, when he scored his first victory in the World Hurdle, and last season, when he triumphed in it for the third time.

Indeed, Inglis Drever was the overall champion hurdler last season, as, according to both ratings systems, he and Kasbah Bliss, the World Hurdle runner-up, were superior to the top two-miler, Sizing Europe, and the Champion Hurdle winner, Katchit, who is not a champion by any method of calculation.

This is the golden age of staying hurdlers. Between 1957 and 2000 there was not a single season in which the best stayer was superior to the top two-mile hurdler but it has happened in most seasons since then. This century the World Hurdle has usually been of a higher standard than the Champion Hurdle, justifying its new position as the centrepiece of the festival's third day.

Yet Inglis Drever is flattered by his unique status as a triple World Hurdle winner. If 'winningmost' meant 'best', Golden Miller would have been the greatest Gold Cup winner and Badsworth Boy the best Champion Chase winner - and they clearly weren't.

Inglis Drever is the jointbest World Hurdle winner in the nine years of the Anglo-Irish classifications, together with Baracouda and Iris's Gift on 172. Yet, again, that flatters him, and on RPRs he was 2lb inferior to those two paragons.

Baracouda was the champion staying hurdler three times (and his tally in the World Hurdle would probably have been three if the 2001 festival had not been cancelled), whereas Inglis Drever achieved that distinction only twice, the same as Mighty Man.

Mighty Man never showed his best at Cheltenham but twice ran away with the Liverpool Hurdle, thus turning the tables on his World Hurdle conquerors - My Way De Solzen in 2006 and Inglis Drever in 2007.

In the latter season Mighty Man was not merely the best stayer but also the overall champion hurdler.

In other words, he achieved everything that Inglis Drever did - unless you believe that the Cheltenham Festival is the be-all and end-all of the season.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 22, 2009
Words:447
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