Flyer is just the ticket

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The Independent Online
COURAGE shone like a beacon through the murk as Dublin Flyer and Brendan Powell pulled the Mackeson Gold Cup out of the mud here yesterday.

The extraordinarily gallant nine-year-old's victory, and the reception given to him by the rain-soaked crowd, said everything about the heart that beats within jump racing. Dublin Flyer, as is his wont, jumped like a buck at the head of affairs as he took a high-class field round the Prestbury Park undulations.

But he looked beaten as Egypt Mill Prince ranged alongside off the final bend and went a length up landing over the last fence. Giving up, however, are not words that would be in Dublin Flyer's vocabulary if he had one, and, putting his big, handsome head down, he answered Powell's every call and clawed back his rival stride by stride up the gruelling uphill run to the winning post.

Egypt Mill Prince, runner-up in the race for the third successive year, lost absolutely nothing in his half-length defeat, as the cheers that rang out for both of the horses testified. Big Matt stayed on well for third place, followed in by Gnome's Tycoon and Amtrak Express.

The top-weights Coulton and Bradbury Star, the winner for the past two years, looked threatening as they closed three out, but faded thereafter.

Dublin Flyer gave Powell, 35, his first Mackeson. "I gave him a breather at the top of the hill and the others came to me, but he quickened away again and I thought then that it would take a good one to get to me.

"One did, and he wasn't stopping up the run-in, but you never think you are beat on my horse."

The winning trainer, the Ludlow-based Tim Forster, said: "Bravery is the name of this game, and both horse and jockey showed it today.

"I cannot believe that I once doubted Dublin Flyer's courage when he was a youngster, but he was green and gangly then. But he has matured into what a high-class chaser should look like - big and rangy, but with quality, and he is simply the bravest horse I have trained."

Forster, 61, is no stranger to that subject. He has suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years and is at present battling cancer.

Dublin Flyer was bred by his owner, the 73-year-old John Sumner, and is the final produce of his dam, Dublin Express, who died foaling him.

Sumner said: "The first three out of the mare looked promising, but all broke down. There are so many disappointments along the way, but you always dream of days like this." Forster's connections with the Sumners go back a long way. The trainer recalled: "I trained my first Cheltenham winner for John's father 33 years ago in my second season. It made me think then that training was easy."

Yesterday's hero will return to Cheltenham next month for the Tripleprint Gold Cup, and his connections are eyeing a crack at the King George VI Chase at Kempton after that.

The Gold Cup is also pencilled in on the agenda, but a Grand National entry will be tentative. Forster said: "He would probably lead for three and a half miles and then get overtaken, and I would hate to see him trail in unplaced."

At Ayr the ante-post Hennessy Gold Cup favourite One Man strengthened his claims for a second victory in the big Newbury handicap chase later this month with a decisive seven-length defeat of Jodami, who was trying to give him 16lb, in the Sean Graham Motherwell Limited Handicap Chase.

The Gordon Richards-trained grey was - like Jodami, the 1993 Gold Cup winner - making his seasonal debut. He led for most of the second circuit and drew away steadily over the final three fences. Jodami will reoppose One Man, who gets a 4lb penalty for this victory, at Newbury.