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."

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