Dato Star

Dato Star winner of the Festival Bumper at Cheltenham

  • bay gelding by Accordion out of Newgate Fairy
  • Foaled: 13 April 1991
  • Breeder: E Bracken
  • Trainer: M Jefferson
  • Owner: K Riley, M Guthrie, J Donald

Dato Star British-trained Racehorse

Dato Star was bought as an unbroken three-year-old at Doncaster sales for 4,200gns. He started his career in 1995 with two victories in National Hunt Flat races at Ayr and Haydock Park, in soft and heavy ground, before running out the winner of the Grade 1 festival Bumper at Cheltenham in March 1995, beating the well regarded Red Blazer

After Cheltenham, he was kept fit on the flat, with five races. He managed two second placed efforts, at Chester and Doncaster.

In February 1996 Dato Star switched to hurdling and in his first race defeated Soloman’s Dancer by 10 lengths at Wetherby in the Acomb Novices’ Hurdle. However, Dato Star’s second hurdle race was a disaster as he fell at the fifth in the MD Foods Farmers Select Hurdle at Haydock.

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Not disheartened, Dato returned to the flat and ran third at Notingham before a brilliant fourth in the competitive November handicap at Doncaster to Clifton Fox.

Three weeks later it was back to hurdling, and a third placed effort in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, beaten only a length by Space Trucker.

In January 1997 Dato Star returned to the scene of his fall, and tackled good opposition in the Bellcharm Mitsubishi Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock. He was beaten only 4 lengths by the game mare Minstinguett. After the race trainer Jefferson said that “Dato Star did not pick up as it seemed he would, but he had jumped well. Softer ground suits him better and it would be interesting to see him have a run over 2m4f. There is definitely a good race in him. Malcolm Jefferson planned to run him in the Champion, and as long as the weights do not go up too much he would take in the Tote race, in which he would meet the winner on 5lb better terms. Jefferson added: “I’m very happy with that – he’ll still go for the Champion, it’ll be a different day and a different track. “Richard Guest said he felt him take a heave going to the last and I should think he’ll improve a bit for that – he hasn’t run for a long time.”

Days after the race it turned out that Dato Star has injured himself in the race and he was not seen on the track until January 1998 in the same race at Haydock park. The race produced a champion performance from Dato Star. He was a bit keen early, so his rider let him stride on, and, jumping well, he had his race won a long way out. Considering the ground he set a fast time, even though he was eased in the last 100 yards. Malcolm Jefferson said: “This is the first time he has had his ground since he won the Cheltenham Bumper-people kept saying he was not good enough for a Champion Hurdle, but it is just the ground which has been beating him.”He is not a sprinter, but he is a good galloper and a high-class horse, and if it is very soft at Cheltenham he will be there at the finish, I will tell you that. I am not frightened of anything with him.”Cheltenham is next stop, and Hills slashed his big-race odds from 40-1 to 8-1. However, even allowing for the below-par efforts of his two main rivals, there can by no denying Dato Star was highly impressive. Tim Easterby, an unbiased observer, was moved to remark: “Didn’t he jump, it was just like watching Night Nurse.”

The Champion Hurdle was the next race for Dato, and despite being well fancied, his chances were lost after he had badly blundered the fourth hurdle, being brought to his knees. He finished 13th.

Disaster struck again on his next run, this time on the flat in the Chester Cup, as Dato Star, for whom the ground may have dried up too much, was pulled up early on and it was later reported that he had a fibrillating heart. Dato returned to the track in July at Goodwood, finishing last to Seignorial, before a placed effort at Ayr. However, he gained his first flat victory at Ayr in October on heavy ground, beating Rossel by 13 lengths. A good third in the November Handicap to yavana’s Pace was next before a great victory over French Holly in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle. Conditions were ideal for Dato Star, who is such a good horse on soft ground. Admittedly, he was entitled to win on his best form and the race did not show a great deal more about him. But, given a postive ride, he was sent for home four out, was clear by the second-last and ran on strongly. This was a thoroughly satisfactory run, but he still has a bit to find to trouble the likes of Itsabraq over 2m. However, he might become a leading contender for the stayers’ division, which lacks a real star.

“He just kept on galloping,” said Lorcan Wyer, who rode the winner.

“He settles well and I don’t think it would matter what trip he went over,” added trainer Malcolm Jefferson.

The Bula Hurdle came next at Cheltenham but again, his Cheltenham jinx on the hurdles course struck and this time he came down on the flat shortly after jumping the fifth.

His latest run was in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park, finishing 17 lengths adrift of French Holly. The performance mystified. Jockey Lorcan Wyer said he was never entirely happy on Dato Star from the start, and added: “For a horse who loves his jumping he didn’t seem to have any confidence in himself. Usually he’s a horse who is doing too much for you-you are trying to ease him down rather than make him go. He just didn’t feel like Dato Star and he might be a little sore across his back.”

Evidently he has raced right-handed only once before and was very disappointng on that occasion, too. Perhaps his fall at Cheltenham had affected his confidence.

Dato Star returned from a break of almost a year in November 1999 to win the Fighting Fifth for the second consecutive year. Malcolm Jefferson’s charge, making his seasonal bow under Lorcan Wyer, took up the running after jumping the second hurdle and appeared to be holding Crazy Horse when that challenger unseated his rider two out.

Although Shooting Light stayed on Dato Star was still seven lengths to the good at the line and Wyer said: “He was not quite as electric as he was in the race last year, he was a bit rusty, but in fairness he has not had a run on the Flat this time.

“I was pleased with him and he will go on from here.”

Jefferson, who was at Newbury to saddle Tullymurry Toff in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup, later said: “He did not win as easy as last year but I was pleased with him and he could do no more than win. ” I am happy with him, he would have won if Crazy Horse had stood up.

“I have purposefully not put him in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and we want to take it one race at a time, though I think we will wait for the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock in January.”

Dato Star restated his Cheltenham claims when clinching his first Grade 1 victory in the Pertemps Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on 28th December 1999. He put last season’s defeat in the race behind him when accounting for Wahiba Sands by six lengths in what proved a virtual match for the £50,000 event. The success puts Dato Star in line for a £50,000 bonus if he can follow up at Cheltenham in March and repeat a feat not achieved since Kribensis completed the double in 1990. Since he won the Festival Bumper, Dato Star’s career has been blighted by injury setbacks, the latest of which emerged after his defeat by French Holly in this race a year ago – which was to bring his season to an end. But trainer Malcolm Jefferson remains convinced he is a class act capable of giving Istabraq a race.

“He deserves to win a good race,” said Jefferson. “He is the top two-miler in this country. He’s just an unlucky horse. Lorcan Wyer was determined to ensure Dato Star dictated his own terms in the two-mile race, but his every move was matched by Tony McCoy on Wahiba Sands until the straight where Dato Star asserted. “The track was riding quite tacky and tiring and it was a searching enough gallop, but my horse showed his class over the last two flights,” said Wyer. You could argue that it was not quite the style of Istabraq, but I don’t think Dato Star is ever at his best on a right-handed track. You wouldn’t believe the injuries this horse has sustained, and to keep his form like this shows what a willing horse he is. He has been to hell and back.”

Jefferson next ran Dato in the Champion Hurdle Trial and produced a runaway win in the Red Square Energising Haydock Park Champion Hurdle Trial. He took the Grade Two contest by no less than 17 lengths from Relkeel – with Far Cry and the rest even further back – to make it nine wins from 15 starts to date under National Hunt rules.

Dato Star tackled the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on 14 March 2000, but his chances went with the weather. The drying ground proved too fast for Istabraq and he eventually finished 6th to the mighty Istabraq.

Sadly, tragedy struck in October 2001. The 10-year-old was cantering when he collapsed and died on the gallops at trainer Malcolm Jefferson’s Malton yard. Trainer Malcolm Jefferson, who witnessed the tragic incident, was shocked and saddened at the fate of his long-time stable star.

“I had cantered up in front and when I looked back at the others, he just veered off the all-weather gallop and collapsed and died.”

Jefferson, understandably upset, added: “I suppose the only consolation is, that if something like this had to happen, it happened at home and not on the racecourse. That would have beeneven harder to bear.”

The Accordian gelding had won one race on the Flat earning £21,070 and £142,807 in prize money over jumps.

His nine wins under National Hunt rules included the Prestige Medical Festival Bumper at the 1995 Cheltenham Festival, the 1998 and 1999 Fighting Fifth Hurdles at Newcastle, the 1999 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and two Haydock Champion Hurdle Trials in 1998 and 2000.

Despite his obvious talent, his career was dogged with injury problems and not having his favoured soft ground on the big day, as typified by his two unsuccessful attempts at the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

“Obvious highlights were his bumper win at Cheltenham and winning the Christmas Hurdle, but probably top of the list was when he came back from injury and won at Haydock in a canter,” said Jefferson. “He never got his ground at the Cheltenham Festival apart from when he won the bumper there. He was a big-hearted horse who came back from everything. He came back from injury two or three times every bit as good as he was. We don’t know what he would have done in the future. He hadn’t done an awful lot of racing so there was still quite a lot of miles on the clock. These things do happen and you learn to live with them, but it’s always the hardest when it’s one of your favourites.”

“Kempton was great, but in my book, Haydock, particularly the second time was even better,” said Jefferson, recalling Dato Star’s spring-heeled display which saw him power home 17 lengths clear of his rivals, headed by Relkeel.

“He showed to everyone that day at Haydock what a good horse he was. He was pure class, and was a pleasure to train,” added Jefferson.