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Ask a silly question and you get a serious answer, especially if the question is about celebrating afterwards if Istabraq is cleared by Aidan O'Brien to run today and goes on to win his third Champion Hurdle. 'No, sure there'll be work to do after,' says Anita Harvey. She says it in a way that makes overweight journo's feel even more lazy than normal.

JP McManus, Charlie Swan and Aidan O'Brien may be the most high profile names associated wth Istabraq but nobody knows the great horse better than Harvey.

As the supervisor of the Ballydoyle National Hunt yard, the 26-year-old, who is originally from just outside Donegal town, deals with the moods and needs of the champion hurdler every day.

'A smashing horse to look after,' she says loyally. With Harvey, the horse comes first and no more so than today.

Istabraq will hopefully win but to do so he has to get to the post relaxed and in the peak of health. Then Charlie Swan can start to earn his reviews.

Harvey and the Ballydoyle travelling head lad, Pat Keating, will not get any reviews but, make no mistake, the show wouldn't even hit the road without them.

Every racehorse at every racemeeting has such a back up team. It's hard, unglamorous work that is the life of the vast majority in racing.

But the vast majority don't have the responsibility of looking after something of a national institution.

'I suppose we do get a bit wound up when he runs but it's the same when all of our horses go out there,' says Harvey. Whether Istabraq runs or not, the team will fly back tonight. In between, one racehorse will be the focus of all attention.

You may not know his name but Keating is a television regular. Every swaggering Ballydoyle runner is accompanied around the parade ring by the 33year-old Athy native, anxiously keeping an eye out for the unforseen.

Highly visible and at the same time invisible to those with eyes only for the horses.

'It comes with the job,' Keating grins in his easy way. 'The parade ring can be quite tense but that comes with the job too. We'll be just trying to keep the horse as quiet as possible and make sure nobody gets too near him.'

The O'Brien camp have a regular box for the horse at the racecourse stables and, outside it, they will have their own security in addition to the normal racecourse security.

Feed, hay and water will have been brought from Ballydoyle and everything is geared to keeping Istabraq relaxed.

'He can be a little bit handy now,' Keating, who has led Istabraq back to the Cheltenham winner's enclosure for the last three years, concedes. 'He's a bit highly strung, and while he's happy and normal at home, he knows when at the track that he's on. But he's 100per cent better now than he was before he won the SunAlliance.'

Harvey concurs and adds: 'He's as relaxed as most horses are but he does know what's going on.'

Not that she is complaining. Harvey joined O'Brien's famous stables three years ago and has had no reason to regret it. 'I can't complain. I joined Aidan and got a Champion hurdler to look after. That's landing on your feet,' she laughs.

Keating's commitments during the height of the summer, when he will be responsible for the likes of Bernstein, Giant's Causeway and Aristotle visiting every major racing country in the world, means he views Cheltenham as a comparatively gentle reintroduction to the pressures of travelling millions of pounds worth of horseflesh.

'With the plane, a trip to Cheltenham takes as long as driving the horsebox to the likes of Killarney or Listowel,' he says, while still appreciating the uniqueness of the Festival.

'There's been such a great buzz every year he has won,' Keating declares. 'It's something similar to the Flat but Cheltenham is that bit different.'

However, he also knows that the celebrations of those closest to the hero will have to wait longer than anyone else's. Theirs, after all, is a serious job.