Powell took control of the race from the first strides. He and Jamie Osborne, on the favourite Coulton, set sail together and matched strides at a blazing pace. Coulton's hopes ended with a mistake at the final ditch, six from home, that left Dublin Flyer five lengths clear and still galloping strongly. As he swung into the final turn, the dangers were the outsider Southolt - running the race of his life - and Nuaffe, who had been unable to go with the gallop early, but whose reserves of stamina were now coming into play.
The Irish horse flew the last in third and, under maximum pressure from Sean O'Donovan - having a fine first ride in Britain - caught the leader halfway up the hill. But Powell - who has broken his leg three times in an injury-dogged career - had a partner as tough as himself, and Dublin Flyer thrust his nose back in front on the line. The jockey said: "He hasn't got much speed - his forte is his jumping - but he is so brave."
Dublin Flyer was bred by his owner John Sumner, whose family have been with Forster since the start of his 30-year career, and, for the 60-year-old trainer, the race epitomised the attractions of the steeplechasing game he so loves. And, as he waited forthe result of the photograph, Forster had some pointed remarks about the British Horseracing Board's plans to axe 89 chases from next season's programme.
He said: "Dublin Flyer is a typical, late-maturing steeplechaser, and he has been kept for eight years with this sort of race in mind. If the BHB have their way we will end up with no more horses like him, for there will be no races for them to run in."
O'Donovan's efforts to win earned him a seven-day ban (from 19 to 25 December) for misuse of the whip after vets found Nuaffe was marked.
Large Action, third in the Champion Hurdle as a novice in March, strengthened his claims to next year's title with a two-and-a-half length defeat of reigning champion Flakey Dove in the Bula Hurdle. The six-year-old gelding, always handy in a slowly-run race, took the lead two out and produced an impressive change of gear to quicken clear of his rivals. But he had to be kept up to his work up the hill, and his trainer Oliver Sherwood said: "The way he put daylight between himself and the others was verypleasing. I just wish he wouldn't give us heart failure once he gets in front."
Flakey Dove, who has never won before the turn of the year, also pleased her connections. She showed great determination to run on for second place from the home turn.
On the downside, Carl Llewellyn will be out for two months after sustaining crushed vertebrae in a crashing fall that claimed the life of Bay Mischief. Adrian Maguire, meanwhile, was badly shaken when he was unseated from Country Lad in the big chase, and missed the winning ride on Billygoat Gruff in the last.Reuse content