Racing: Newmill takes ageing Moscow's crown in brutal trial of strength

At the end of one of the most breathless steeplechases in years, simply to be breathing seemed victory enough. By halfway, with Newmill setting a runaway pace, Moscow Flyer's groom was staring down at the bridle chain in his fidgeting fingers, no longer able to watch as the fences seemed to rush towards the ageing champion.

By looking a few yards away, Eamon Leigh could see Ruby Walsh crawling groggily between the photographers gathered at the final fence. Kauto Star, who had started favourite to usurp his horse in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, had come down at the third, bringing down Dempsey and very nearly Moscow Flyer as well.

Kauto Star still had plenty to prove after just four chases but at least he got further than the French mare, Kario De Sormain, whose jockey was unseated at the first. Thierry Majorcryk had never ridden at Cheltenham and will be in no hurry to return, having been taken to hospital with thigh, chest and pelvic injuries.

His misfortune set the tone for a race of brutal intensity. Ultimately only six of the 13 starters would jump round: Oneway and River City both discarded their riders at the ninth, while Fundamentalist crashed at the second last.

Nor was Moscow Flyer alone in being outpaced. Fota Island and Central House, two Irish horses fancied to succeed their compatriot, were also rushed off their feet. It seemed quite obvious that young Andrew McNamara had set off far too fast on the unconsidered Irish runner, Newmill. If it was impossible to lie up with them, then surely it was no less possible for them to keep going on the shattering final climb to the post.

As the toils of his pursuers grew more pronounced, however, Newmill galloped on with undiminished purpose. Though he had a decided flirtation with the second last, he jumped the final fence with gusto and surged nine lengths clear of Fota Island, who led home a bedraggled cluster comprising Mister McGoldrick, Central House and Moscow Flyer.

You could still see the pride in the old horse, as Barry Geraghty searched for the fires that had won them three races at the Festival, but any lingering embers had been heartlessly extinguished by Newmill. Leigh shook his head and went on to the track to greet Moscow Flyer. He knew that he would never run again, and there was no disguising his relief. Once unbeaten in 19 completed starts over fences, Moscow Flyer had now been beaten for the fourth time running, and his trainer took her cue.

"I'm delighted he retires in one piece, and that he retires here at Cheltenham where he had his finest hours," Jessica Harrington said. "Barry was always just niggling at him. He was always under pressure instead of travelling. But we got him here when everybody was saying we wouldn't, and he hasn't been disgraced. In fact, he never stopped trying.

"I'm just pleased he is stood here with us now, and hasn't come back in one of those horrible white-and-blue wagons. Everybody knows what he means to me and I would have to say that he was the best two-miler I have ever seen."

Quite where Newmill will end up in the pantheon is difficult to say. Certainly, he has made dramatic progress in his first season since being switched to the Co Cork stables of John Joseph Murphy, starting off with a couple of honourable runs over hurdles, behind Brave Inca. The trainer, like his namesake after the Smurfit Champion Hurdle the previous afternoon, seemed one of the most composed men on the track.

"I was confident we would be in the first three," he said. "I was a bit worried Central House might take him on and buzz him up, because he does get buzzy when he thinks about jumping and thinks about life. Andrew is a top-class jockey, a future champion. My only orders were to be up there and out of trouble."

That simple strategy proved highly prescient. "I could hear a lot of noise and commotion in behind but I didn't know what was going on," McNamara said. "I couldn't believe how well he travelled. I took one look round before the last and saw that we had them."

Still only 22, McNamara announced his talent to British racegoers by riding four winners in one afternoon at Musselburgh in November. His father saddled Boreen Prince to win the Arkle Trophy here in 1985, and he will be hoping that Newmill can exalt him in much the same way that Moscow Flyer did Geraghty.

For now, however, he must accept that his first Cheltenham role has been villain. On an afternoon when the bookmaking industry computed its overall profits in excess of £30m, it was not just the horses who were littering the ground. Fortunately, all seven who hit the deck in the Champion Chase returned unscathed, but at the time it did resemble the retreat from Moscow.

But then that is how empires end. Geraghty rode Moscow Flyer back along the walkway through respectful applause. Two of the fallers were led back with him. They might as well have been towing broken cannons. "I owe such a lot to this horse," Geraghty said. "He was such a leg-up for my career. I hope he has a long and healthy retirement. He's the best I have ever ridden - and the best I have ever seen."

Like all the Festival perennials Moscow Flyer became cherished as a miracle of soundness and dependability. His usurper remains a novelty, and his mastery of the next generation cannot be presumed, but there was certainly a hint of tyranny in his performance.

William Hill offers 10-1 against Newmill retaining this prize next year, behind Kauto Star and Voy Por Ustedes on 6-1.

Lest we forget, however, Well Chief (8-1) and Azertyuiop (10-1) remain entitled to return from injury next year and may yet reflect further glory upon the horse who ruled them in his pomp.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?