Racing: John Durkan loses fight against leukaemia

Friday 23 January 1998 01:02
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Istabraq's challenge for Sunday's Irish Champion Hurdle became especially poignant yesterday following the death of John Durkan, the man who spotted his jumping talent.

Durkan, aged 31, died on Wednesday night after a long battle against leukaemia that had ended his plans to set up as a trainer in Newmarket.

A successful amateur rider, his 93 successes included wins on Run And Skip and Brown Windsor. He also worked as assistant in England to Charlie Brooks, Oliver Sherwood and John Gosden and was ready to strike out on his own at the end of 1996 when he fell ill.

Istabraq, who Durkan had got to know "inside out" while at Gosden's and bought for 38,000gns for J P McManus, was to be the star of the string at the former Green Lodge stables of Tom Jones. Even after Istabraq joined Aidan O'Brien in Ireland, the horse was supposed to return to Durkan's care once he was able to start training.

When Istabraq captured the Royal SunAlliance Hurdle at last year's Cheltenham Festival, Durkan was listening to the commentary from a hospital in New York where he was to undergo a bone-marrow transplant the following day.

His funeral will be held on Saturday in Glencullen, close to Leopardstown where Istabraq is due to race on Sunday. Durkan, one of nine children, was the son of Bill Durkan who trained the remarkable mare Anaglog's Daughter, winner of the Arkle Trophy in 1980.

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