Champion Flyer 'the best since Arkle' says jubilant Geraghty

Under the bust of the Queen Mother, Moscow Flyer returned in triumph here yesterday after the race run in her name. The Irish horse had won the event of the Festival, the collision of jumping's royalty, the one contested by the three highest-rated steeplechasers in training. He was the meeting's champion in the Champion Chase.

The Cheltenham Festival always reverberates when a celebrated Irish combatant fulfils the dreams of his nation. The Prestbury Park bowl was no different yesterday as Moscow Flyer returned to a shattering roar. His two British counterparts had been put to the sword, Well Chief a gallant second but Azertyuiop, the supposed ogre of the home team, an exhausted and badly beaten third. This was the damage inflicted by Moscow Flyer.

Such is the sum of the gelding's achievement - he has now won all 18 chases he has completed - that the extravagant compliment paid him by his grateful jockey, Barry Geraghty, for once did not seem hopelessly misplaced.

"He jumped brilliantly, was always in command and was just different class today," the jockey said. "It was all very straightforward. People have even claimed that Moscow Flyer is the best horse we have seen since Arkle. I would not argue with that."

It was another grey, dreary day in the Cotswolds, a day when persistent rain arrived just in time for the first race. On the track itself, though, there was inevitably going to be plenty of colour in the Champion Chase. There is always something compelling about the fastest fencing horses throwing themselves around undulating Gloucestershire terrain and over 12 fences. Mistakes, like blinking in the stands, are not an option. One was to have a fundamental effect on the course of the contest.

The Champion Chase king has always found dangerous enemies at the portcullis as he tries to retain the crown. Azertyuiop's aim was to become the first since Viking Flagship in 1995. And then there was Moscow Flyer himself, the 2003 winner, who was trying to emulate Royal Relief in 1974 and be the next horse to regain the championship.

The 11-year-old, who unseated Geraghty here 12 months ago, did not appear a greybeard as he emerged into the Cheltenham parade ring. The long horse, unlike the composed but nodding Azertyuiop, was on his toes. Moscow Flyer pranced and, as soon as Geraghty was hoisted into the saddle, the veteran started snorting. He knew what was coming. There had been blood in the horse's mouth earlier. He had bitten his lip. Soon, we were all to.

Well Chief was the least impressive of the triumvirate, his bleached chestnut hide looking as though it had been in the wash once too often.

After the tapes went up, Kadarann dominated the early skirmishes in company with Central House, but their moves were being covered in behind. Moscow Flyer tracked, with Azertyuiop not far away and Well Chief tucked further back by Timmy Murphy.

Azertyuiop made an effort to get upsides, on the inner, going out into the country for the second time. Then came cataclysm as he dropped his back legs in the water jump and decelerated violently. Yet that was not the reason for his doom, according to Ruby Walsh, rather a consequence of how he was travelling at the time.

"For some reason, he was never going," the jockey reported. "The mistake at the water didn't matter. At that stage, I could hardly keep up. Horses can't tell you what's wrong. He kept galloping away, but there was no life there."

There was, however, plenty of vitality in Moscow Flyer. By three out he was in front. It was, however, no procession from there, as the small form of Well Chief emerged for an assault. Geraghty was first to the whip as the partnership turned into the straight. Moscow Flyer got the message.

The 6-4 favourite dug in and, after the final fence, there could be only one winner. As is his wont, Moscow Flyer allowed another to get to his shirt-tails, Well Chief finishing two lengths adrift at the line.

It is this sort of magnanimity which has allowed Moscow Flyer such a long career. "He's never had hard races or hard seasons," Jessica Harrington, the Co Kildare trainer, said, "and he never wins his races by very far. He doesn't take a lot out of himself and that may be the trick about how he's performed so long. I've had him in the yard for six years now and he's amazing. To bring him back here at the age of 11 and win is just great. I think the whole of Ireland really wanted the horse to win this race. Cheltenham is the place for any Irishman to win a race."

It is this sense of self-preservation which gives Moscow Flyer some sane prospect of coming back 12 months hence and retaining his title at the twilight age of 12. His baying supporters will have drunk to that last night and the day of St Patrick is not a day they may see much of.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower