Racing: Revenge is spectacular for Flyer

There is a tendency in this sport, in the immediate aftermath of the event, to put what might happen in the future ahead of the beauty and thrill of the spectacle.

There is a tendency in this sport, in the immediate aftermath of the event, to put what might happen in the future ahead of the beauty and thrill of the spectacle.

But here yesterday, it was easy to revel in the moment as those great rivals Moscow Flyer and Barry Geraghty, Azertyuiop and Ruby Walsh produced almost the definitive two-mile chase. It had everything: spine-tingling brilliance, tactics, drama, recriminations and even, almost, an interloper. Gladiators III: the Rematch proved the best of the trilogy.

Two-milers are the sprinters of the chasing world and over the minimum trip jumping, particularly over these stiff, tricky obstacles, is everything. And for all his talent, crossing a fence has been Moscow Flyer's Achilles heel. Coming here he had won all 15 completed starts, but there was the rub: his five failures included the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March, when his exit four from home handed his crown to Azertyuiop.

Yesterday, however, his technique was breathtaking. "Electric," said Geraghty. "This horse is the man. He winged the last two and nothing was going to get by him. He was looking round and having a laugh." For most of the race Geraghty was content to sit second as Azertyuiop's stablemate Cenkos, winner of the Grade One contest two years ago when the Flyer blundered out, cut out a fierce gallop. Walsh was his shadow in third, covering the moves. The three close-set fences alongside the railway here can be crucial, with no more than 13 strides between each, and at the middle of them Moscow Flyer made his only error, misjudging his take-off by half a length.

But he was back on an even keel instantly, took Cenkos in the air four out to a mighty roar from the record 16,000 who had turned up for the famous duel, and headed for the third-last, the Pond fence, with daylight between him and Azertyuiop. At this juncture, Geraghty looked round, pointedly, at his pursuer. "It was part of the plan," he said. "If you look round, it's usually a signal that you're about to make a move. I wasn't right then, but I wanted them a bit closer to me. Mine sometimes loses concentration if he's on his own."

Azertyuiop duly took closer order, crossing the Pond just a length adrift. And then, with heads turned for home and two fences and the gruelling uphill climb ahead, here was Well Chief suddenly in the mix. Azertyuiop scattered the top of the birch two out, his first mistake, and last year's novice champion landed over the final obstacle in second place.

But up front Moscow Flyer was sailing gaily along, his four white socks and symmetrical elongated star sparkling in the gloom. Azertyuiop's racing heart enabled him to claw back Well Chief to take second by a short head, but he was still a length and a half down. The one-two was a repeat of last year, when the runner-up was a callow youth, but this time the prizefighters had squared up as equals.

The crowd gave due accord to both Azertyuiop and Well Chief for the parts they played but reserved an ovation worthy of the Irish for Moscow Flyer, trained by Jessica Harrington at Moone, Co Kildare. The 10-year-old gelding seemed a little taken aback, planting himself outside the winner's enclosure until the racket subsided. Or maybe he was just waiting for his public to gather fully.

"He is just a star," said Harrington. "He took the race by the scruff today and said 'come and catch me', and they couldn't. I know he does nothing in front, and Barry is always convinced there is more to give. He gave him just a couple of smacks before the last and he flew it, and up the hill they were going to have to sprout wings to get past him."

Moscow Flyer, who looked a ball of bouncing, balanced muscle in the preliminaries, was the first horse to be owned by Brian Kearney, and has won nearly £900,000 for him in 23 wins over fences and hurdles. "I remember the day I bought him at auction as a three-year-old," he said. "I fell in love with him, and he came up late in the day and I'd kept my money till then. I had a budget of I£20,000 and I got him for I£19,000. How can you repay a horse like him what you owe him in sheer pleasure?"

Losing with dignity is as important as winning graciously, but Azertyuiop's owner, toymaker John Hales, rather threw his Tellytubbies out of the pram as he grumbled about Walsh's tactics. "He never put Moscow Flyer under pressure," he said. "We never got upsides him like in the Champion Chase, when we put him on the floor."

Gladiators IV is on the cards, perhaps over three miles in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, more likely back at Cheltenham in March. "Let's not worry about all that now, though," added Harrington. "We'll do what's best for the horse. But I'm just enjoying today."

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: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy