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Three-time Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq's position among the all-time greats was confirmed today with the unveiling of the first ever Anglo-Irish National Hunt Classification.

Aidan O'Brien's charge has been giving a rating of 186 - 13lbs higher than Limestone Lad, the top- rated hurdler over two and a half mile, and 16lb above Dato Star, the leading British-based horse over timber.

Last season's Gold Cup hero Looks Like Trouble received a mark of 174, the same rating as his predecessor, See More Business.

While Flat horses have been placed in an official classification since 1971, this is the first time there has been a National Hunt equivalent, although there was an experimental list for chasers for the 1998/9 season.

British Horse Racing Board handicapper Phil Smith said: 'This is not a handicap, it is a classification.

'It reflects what we thought were the best performances throughout the season - we are trying to give horses credit for what they achieved.

'Most ratings will be the same as the handicap figure but some won't.'

The classification reflects performances produced in Britain and Ireland and the only French-based horses included are those that were in action this side of the Channel.

However, it is hoped that the classification could be extended to include French racing in the near future.

'Historically the French are some way behind the Irish in the number of horses they run in this country,' Smith added.

'But hopefully in five years' time there will be a French handicapper sitting here.'

Hurdlers were divided into two categories, two-milers and two and a half mile horses, with Istabraq rated the best two-mile performer.

Explaining the gelding's figure, Irish handicapper, Noel O'Brien said: 'He is the first horse to win at four consecutive Cheltenham Festivals since 1966. He has joined the likes of Sir Ken, Hatton's Grace, Persian War and See You Then in winning three Champion Hurdles and he won this season in record time.

'I would say we are not in a golden era for hurdlers but we are privileged to be seeing one of the all-time greats.'

Phil Judge, who is responsible for handicapping hurdlers in Britain, added: 'In my time Alderbrook was probably the next best hurdler and he would have been rated at 176 compared to Istabraq.'

Istabraq is actually rated 176 in his own country where all the hurdles ratings are 10lbs lower.

Among the novice hurdlers Monsignor was rated 160 in the two and a half mile bracket.

Dermot Weld's Stage Affair was next in the rankings on 156, making him the best two-mile novice hurdler.

Among the juveniles Triumph Hurdle winner Snow Drop, Regal Exit and Mister Banjo, who fetched a record 240,000 guineas at auction on Thursday, were joint top-rated on 141.

Looks Like Trouble and See More Business were rated the best chasers in training overall last season on 174, a rise of 4lbs from last season's experimental ratings to the latter horse.

See More Business was an easy winner of the Pertemps King George VI Chase at Kempton, in which Looks Like Trouble was a big disappointment.

However, Noel Chance's charge gained his revenge at Cheltenham in March, winning the Gold Cup with See More Business six lengths back in fourth.

Smith said: 'In the end we couldn't work out a convincing argument for one being higher than the other.

'It's nice to see we've got two super chasers and I would say they were both above average for Gold Cup winners.'

Flagship Uberalles' performance when beaten a neck by Nordance Prince conceding 24lbs in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot in January was the best performance in a two-mile chase with a rating of 169.

Edredon Bleu, who had Paul Nicholls' gelding back in third in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, was given 166.

Direct Route is the only horse to appear in two distance categories, receiving 165 for his two-mile displays and the same mark to top the rankings over two and a half miles.

Martell Grand National winner Papillon was allotted 148.

The ill-fated Gloria Victis was rated the top novice chaser and was given a mark of 166 for his displays over three miles, including his spectacular victory in the Racing Post Chase.

But it is hoped that the strength in depth of the novice chasing division will be reflected in next year's classification.

Arkle Trophy winner Tiutchev was rated best two-mile novice on 162, 1lb higher than Cenkos.

While Whitbread Gold Cup hero, Beau, Irish Grand National winner, Commanche Court and Paris Pike, successful in the Scottish equivalent at Ayr, are rated 154, 153 and 152 respectively in the three-mile division.

O'Brien said: 'It may be a bit early, but it would look as if we have a very special group of novice chasers.'