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Cheltenham Icons - Horse Racing: A look at Moscow Flyer's career

Cheltenham Festival icon Moscow Flyer was a star turn for Irish trainer Jessica Harrington and helped to really put the career of Barry Geraghty on a fast track.

The highlights of his career were his two victories in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

In what was a golden period of the two-mile division, he showed his class in 2003 and 2005, landing the feature race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.

Trained in Ireland by Harrington, Moscow Flyer won 19 of his 28 races over fences. In total through his National Hunt career, he won 13 Grade Ones, with three victories coming at the Cheltenham Festival meeting.

Although his class was rarely questioned, Moscow Flyer did keep his fans on the edge of their seats, as he unseated his rider three times over fences, while he also fell on two occasions.

Here's our look back on an outstanding career.

Missed opportunity over hurdles

After making four appearances in bumpers in the early stages of his career without success, not much was expected from Moscow Flyer when he made his hurdles debut at Punchestown in October 1999.

However, he got off the mark in style in that maiden contest, in what was the first of three consecutive wins.

Harrington's novice hurdler established himself as one of the best in his division when he won the Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse. He made all the running in the race, beating the odds-on favourite Stage Affair.

In his second season over hurdles, major wins came in the Morgiana Hurdle and December Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Unfortunately for his connections, he missed the opportunity to contest for the 2001 Champion Hurdle as the Cheltenham Festival was abandoned due to the Foot and Mouth outbreak.

Impressive novice chase campaign

It would soon become clear that Moscow Flyer was an even better horse over fences. However, it did not get off to a great start. He fell on his chase debut at Fairyhouse, after making a mistake at the fifth fence from home.

Moscow Flyer won the Grade One Denny Gold Medal Novice Chase on St Stephen's Day in Ireland prior to the 2002 Cheltenham Festival. That helped him to jump to the top end of the betting for the Arkle Trophy Chase.

The 2m novice race at the Festival in 2002 included the highly-regarded Seebald and Fondmort, but it was Moscow Flyer who prevailed by four lengths in what was the performance of his career at that time.

First Champion Chase success

In his first season outside of novice company, Moscow Flyer won three of his four races. His sole defeat came in the 2002 Tingle Creek Chase where he unseated his regular rider Barry Geraghty.

Back-to-back impressive wins prior to the 2003 Champion Chase meant he went off as the 7/4 favourite for the leading two-mile chase at the Festival.

He was held up in touch in the early stages of the race at Cheltenham by Geraghty. Once the Irishman asked his horse to quicken, he soon hit the front of the field, eventually stretching away for a seven-length success.

Moscow Flyer was unable to successfully follow up his Champion Chase win at the Punchestown Festival a month later, however.

He was clear at the field at the third fence from home before making a blunder and unseating Geraghty.

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Cheltenham crown blundered away

One of Harrington's chaser's best seasons came in the 2003/04 campaign as he was successful in five of his six starts, with three Grade One victories going his way.

Unfortunately for his connections, his sole defeat came at the Festival in his defence of his Champion Chase title.

As he did at various points of his career, he blundered when he was in contention at the business end of his race, ejecting Geraghty from the saddle. That allowed Azertyuiop to take advantage and pick up his crown.

Moscow Flyer made up for his Cheltenham error to land two major prizes in the final month of the season.

He won the Melling Chase at Aintree for the first time, while at the Punchestown Festival, he justified going off as the odds-on favourite for the Champion Chase.

Second Champion Chase win cements legacy

The Irish horse went into the 2005 Cheltenham Festival on the back of three straight victories to begin the season.

He scored in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown for the second time in his career, which showed he remained at the top of his game.

Moscow Flyer went off as the 6/4 favourite for the 2005 Champion Chase where he faced strong competition from defending champion Azertyuiop and the newcomer to the division, Well Chief.

He was hard pressed as he approached the last fence, but he showcased all his fighting qualities which saw him prevail, finishing two-lengths ahead of Well Chief.

The victory at Cheltenham helped Moscow Flyer to become a Cheltenham Festival great. He received a fantastic reception as he entered the winners' enclosure following the race.

Success followed at the Grand National meeting again in the Melling Chase, in what proved to be the horse's final victory.

He made three appearances the following season, where he was a long way below his best. His connections opted to the retire the horse after he finished fifth in the 2006 Champion Chase.

Moscow Flyer is remembered today with a race in his honour. The Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle takes place in January at Punchestown and it has been won by the likes of Vautour, Douvan and Min in recent years.

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