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Monksfield: one of the most redoubtable opponents of his era

  PICTURE: Mark Cranham (  

career profile

Monksfield was a two-time Champion Hurdle winner whose determination in a battle established him as one of the most redoubtable opponents of his era who is best remembered for his Aintree Hurdle dead-heat with rival Night Nurse.

The 1977 contest went down as one of the most exciting hurdle races ever run but this was one of many memorable efforts by one of Ireland's greatest hurdlers whose rags to riches story made him a national treasure.

Monksfield, who was owned by Michael Mangan, was a son of Gala Performance out of the mare Regina who unusually for a jumper raced throughout his career as an entire horse. He cost his trainer Des McDonogh 740 guineas as a yearling and caused a surprise on his racecourse debut by winning a Flat maiden at odds of 25-1, but it was when switched to hurdles that he came to the fore.

He won four times during the 1975-76 campaign and on his first visit to Cheltenham took second in the Triumph Hurdle. The following season he was campaigned for the Champion Hurdle and against one of the strongest fields assembled he was beaten into second by defending champion Night Nurse. In their next clash the following month at Aintree the pair couldn't be separated at the end of a pulsating duel from the final flight to the line.

Monksfield's turn arrived at the following Cheltenham festival where he clinched his first Champion Hurdle by beating Sea Pigeon and Night Nurse and then won a second time at Aintree. He went back to Cheltenham for a third tilt at the Champion Hurdle, a race in which his fighting qualities were yet again evident.

In front at the second last he was collared by the strong travelling Sea Pigeon at the last but his rival's challenge was premature and Monksfield, under Dessie Hughes, hit back to snatch victory by three quarters of a length. He went to on to Aintree to record a third Aintree Hurdle win.

He returned to Cheltenham to defend his crown but this time succumbed to Sea Pigeon by seven lengths and was eventually retired to stud with a record of 14 wins from 49 starts.

He spent nine seasons as a stallion until he died in 1989. The best horses he sired were Judges Fancy (153 RPR) and Toranfield (150) who won eight times and finished second in the 1991 Mackeson Gold Cup.

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