Racing: King George the target for Flyer after stand-up success

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The Independent Online

Moscow Flyer still had a jockey on his back at the end of the Champion Chase at Punchestown yesterday and, as history tells us, that means he must have won.

Jessica Harrington's 10-year-old has now collected all 14 of his completed starts over fences, and yesterday's success, coupled with victory in the Melling Chase at Aintree's Grand National meeting, has all but erased the disturbing memory of his capsize in the premier Champion Chase, at the Cheltenham Festival.

Moscow Flyer had to overcome a hoodoo of sorts, as the 4-11 favourite had unseated in the same race 12 months ago. There was no such anxiety for Barry Geraghty this time though. The only problem was provided by Rathgar Beau, who harried Moscow Flyer to the line but went down by two lengths.

"Barry said it was the nicest ride he has ever had from the horse in this country," Harrington said. "They went a good gallop and he was switched off. That was a lovely finish to the season.

"We now know he goes at a variety of trips. We'll start off in a two-mile race at Navan in November, which he won last year, and the King George [VI Chase at Kempton] is a very real possibility. But that will be a bit of a finding-out exercise."

Boxing Day at Sunbury is also on the agenda for Victor Dartnall's Lord Sam, who yesterday won a novice chase light on numbers yet laden with drama. All four runners jumped the last within a length of each other, but it was Lord Sam's head which poked out furthest at the line.

"He's a class horse and I'm delighted with that," Dartnall said. "He'd have preferred three miles but he had been quick enough over two and a half when he won at Kempton. We must aim at the big boys now so the King George will be the target. There's nowhere else to go."

Lord Sam had been forced to miss Cheltenham with an infection, but one Festival winner, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle victor Brave Inca, extended his winning sequence to seven yesterday in his homeland. Colm Murphy's runner triumphed with what is becoming trademark tenacity, hanging on by a short-head. Soon it will be time to try him at the highest level.

"There was a question mark today regarding the ground drying out, but he's unreal," Murphy said. "Every time he works he frightens you. I'd say at this moment in time we'll go for the Champion Hurdle, but we won't be in a hurry to bring him back though. He'll probably have one run before Christmas and then another around Christmas itself.

"My heart was in my mouth today, but the horse is as tough as nails and Barry [Cash, his jockey] knows him so well. He's lazy and mentally laid back, but he always pricks his ears and he just kept pulling out more."

The great excitements at Punchestown today should emerge in their Gold Cup, which features refugees from the Cheltenham Blue Riband in Harbour Pilot, Beef Or Salmon and First Gold, the last named the reigning champion here. Also in the mix are Rince Ri and the Royal & SunAlliance Chase winner, Rule Supreme.

The most scrutinised horse in Britain today will be a beast which looks like a jumper and behaves like one, in that he seems to return every season. Persian Punch is back to the coalface once more at the age of 11 in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot, a contest which has sadly slipped off the television listings.

The old horse usually takes a couple of runs to get the stiffness out of his limbs and a better bet is MISTERNANDO (nap 2.40), who progressed rapidly at the end of last season.

The Free Handicap form is tested in the Pavilion Stakes and should be well advertised as the Newmarket runner-up, Moonlight Man (next best 4.25), has ticks in all the right boxes.