Racing: Flagship ready to capture crown

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The Independent Online

Jim Lewis, the hugely likeable Aston Villa fan who owns two-mile chasing crack Edredon Bleu, may have cause today to regret the friendly advice he offered to fellow-proprietor Michael Krysztofiak on the subject of Flagship Uberalles. "We were chatting about our horses, like we do," said Lewis, "and I suggested that he perhaps should not go to the well so often. Now it looks as though I might have scuppered myself."

Jim Lewis, the hugely likeable Aston Villa fan who owns two-mile chasing crack Edredon Bleu, may have cause today to regret the friendly advice he offered to fellow-proprietor Michael Krysztofiak on the subject of Flagship Uberalles. "We were chatting about our horses, like we do," said Lewis, "and I suggested that he perhaps should not go to the well so often. Now it looks as though I might have scuppered myself."

Indeed it does. Flagship Uberalles has his physical and mental vicissitudes and, under his new regime with his latest trainer Philip Hobbs (his third in as many seasons), has been rationed to just one run this term. That was at Sandown in December, when he left Edredon Bleu trailing in his powerful wake as he took his third successive Tingle Creek Chase.

You would be pushed to find a more handsome physical specimen than Flagship Uberalles, but his noble frame and sleek coat cover an embarrassment of glitches. Muscular imbalance means he wears a specially weighted physiotherapy boot at exercise; a breathing problem meant throat surgery; a Greta Garbo temperament means he prefers not to go out with the whole gang at home. But he is the most innately talented of all the performers over the minimum trip and has won twice over the course and distance of today's Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Tiutchev – like Flagship Uberalles an Arkle Trophy winner, and like him something of an invalid, having serial colic – deserves respect for an impressive win at Sandown in February. Reigning king Edredon Bleu, though, is the ultimate target, and his tenacity and speed over a fence means he will not give up his crown readily. Both he and Flagship Uberalles (2.35), incidentally, wear their owners' hearts on their sleeves; Lewis's claret and blue and Arizona-based Krysztofiak's stars and stripes.

The Royal & SunAlliance Chase is the staying chasers' Alma Mater and is Oxbridge level. Winners and places include four Gold Cup contenders – Looks Like Trouble, Lord Noelie, Florida Pearl and Alexander Banquet.

Most of this year's protagonists have been winning on ground softer that this. The Irish raider Harbour Pilot will come into the reckoning if he can adapt but a chance is taken that the high action of French challenger Japhet (3.55) will not preclude him from doing so.

Classic winners are not common at Cheltenham (although St Leger winner Aurelius finished second in a Champion Hurdle), but the presence of Galileo in the Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle should not be taken literally. The real thing is safely on stud duty at Coolmore; this is the Polish version, winner of his local St Leger. He should progress from his debut but not fast enough to cope with Rouble (2.00).

The Irish have made the Champion Bumper their own and can continue the trend in all but location with Rhinestone Cowboy (5.40). The six-year-old was bred in Ireland, is trained and ridden by Irishmen and owned by an Irishwoman. He just happens to live in England, about 10 miles from the course.

The Coral Eurobet Cup, is a plot-filled mystery. Martin Pipe runs six, of whom Tony McCoy has chosen Golden Alpha; Mary Reveley has been warming up Roveretto on the all-weather; Jonjo O'Neill has elected this, instead of the opener, for his progressive Joss Naylor (3.15).

If Barba Papa turns out after yesterday's unplaced effort in the last he will set up an unusual double for his trainer, Tony Martin, who rides Oa Baldixe (4.30) in the National Hunt Chase. The Mildmay of Flete is left to BLOWING WIND (5.05, nap), who ran better than his placing suggests last time.

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