Racing: Flyer sets up Tingle Creek thriller

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The Independent Online

The place and time to be in order to discover whether anticipation is better than the fact will be Esher, Surrey, on the afternoon of 4 December.

The place and time to be in order to discover whether anticipation is better than the fact will be Esher, Surrey, on the afternoon of 4 December. The Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown was yesterday confirmed the battleground for Gladiators III: The Decider. Five days after the reigning two-mile chasing king Azertyuiop threw down the gauntlet at Exeter, the horse whose crown he removed, Moscow Flyer, picked it up at Navan by taking the Fortria Chase with a round of jumping that would have shamed a well-schooled impala.

Oddly for a top-notcher over fences, Moscow Flyer's famous Achilles' heel has been his technique in the air. He has never been beaten in a steeplechase he has completed, but there's the rub; in five of 20 contests either he and/or his rider have been on the floor. But there was not the semblance of a liberty taken yesterday in as good a round as the 10-year-old has produced in his life. Arctic Copper was allowed to lead over the early obstacles but at the first down the back straight Barry Geraghty asked the Flyer, the 30-100 favourite, to take that rival in the air, which he did.

Geraghty did not have to turn the screw hard for the former champion's class to assert and by the turn to the three fences in the straight Rathgar Beau was the only one of five rivals left within snorting distance. And though he was only a couple of lengths behind at the final fence he was well under the pump, and a clumsy crossing sent both the black birch and Shay Barry flying.

By contrast, Moscow Flyer saved his best 'til last, producing a flamboyant, ears-pricked, crowd-pleasing bound. He came in a bloodless 25 lengths clear of Arctic Copper with Geraghty easing down. "I schooled him last week and the week before and rode him work at the Curragh on Thursday morning, and he was looking well and pretty forward, and he has done today what I thought he'd do," said the rider.

"His jumping was really good. The fences here are big, and the bigger the better for him, because he has to treat them with respect and has to make a bit more effort. And Rathgar Beau being there was a good thing, as it gave me something to race at over the last three."

It was Moscow Flyer's second successive win in the Grade Two race. Twelve months ago he followed it by giving Azertyuiop a four-length beating in the Tingle Creek and when the pair met for the second time, in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March, battle had yet to be fully joined when Moscow Flyer blundered and dislodged Geraghty four fences out.

The score may be one-all, but the younger horse, now officially rated Britain's best, ahead even of triple Gold Cup winner Best Mate, after his performance during the week, was not yet a man at Sandown last year and Geraghty is fully cognisant of the task awaiting this time. "I was impressed with Azertyuiop at Exeter," he added, "He is good and he is going to take a lot of beating in the Tingle Creek, but I wouldn't be afraid of him."

What happens at Sandown will shape the rest of Moscow Flyer's season. He has already won at the highest level over two and a half-miles - when he took the Melling Chase at Aintree in April - and there has been talk of a step up to three miles in the King George VI Chase. He has even been introduced in the Gold Cup betting; Ladbrokes go 16-1.

"He has plenty of options and we'll make a decision about the King George after the Tingle Creek," said trainer Jessica Harrington. "But I was very happy with today. He winged the last two when he wanted to and he'll come on for the run."

The other star on the card at the Co Meath track, Solerina, also obliged. The Bowe family's remarkable mare, who finished second on the Flat in the Irish Cesarewitch last month, notched her 15th success from 25 runs with a cruising eight-length defeat of Rosaker in the Lismullen Hurdle. The seven-year-old winning machine will now try for back-to-back victories in the Grade One Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse at the end of the month.

¿ Redemption is lame and will miss the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham next Saturday. The nine-year-old had shrunk to 10-1 in the betting after trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies revealed he had backed his charge to win the race. "He worked well yesterday but this morning he was found to be lame. He appears to have pulled a muscle behind," Twiston-Davies said yesterday.