The trainer of Moscow Flyer has found only the coldest comfort for her champion's third consecutive defeat at Leopardstown on Tuesday, reasoning that her stable has been out of form for so long that she has forgotten what a winner looks like. Moscow Flyer was, in fact, her 68th loser in a barren two months, and yesterday Jessica Harrington confirmed that nothing more specific had emerged to explain his impotent display.
"He's in grand order," she said. "The vet has scoped him and that was clear. He has eaten up and we can't find anything wrong. I don't know if he'll run again before the Festival."
Moscow Flyer finished only fourth of five on Tuesday, though making a spirited initial rally. He is now out to 7-1 with Totesport to retain the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March.
Another Cheltenham crown had slipped at Chepstow the same day, Inglis Drever already beaten when taking a heavy fall two out. While the leading staying hurdler was nursing his bruises, his trainer did not sound too downhearted. "Graham [Lee] thought turning for home he was just starting to pick up," Howard Johnson said. "Graham said all of a sudden he changed gear. Then he floundered in some bad ground. At the hurdle he just stood too far off it. On good ground he would have got there, but on that ground he couldn't get out of it. He was a bit shaken up because it was his first fall."
Johnson hopes Inglis Drever will recover in time to go back to Cheltenham at the end of January for the Cleeve Hurdle. In the meantime the sponsors have pushed him out to 7-2 from 7-4 to retain the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, the same odds as Rhinestone Cowboy.
* Yesterday's cards at Newbury and Catterick and today's cards at Newbury and Musselburgh were called off because of frost.