It’s a very difficult question – but who is the Greatest Two Mile Chaser of all time?
Last month the Racing fraternity mourned the passing of the legendary 2m Chase great Moscow Flyer who died at the age of 22 after many years of happy retirement at the Irish National Stud.
It brought up many vocal shouts for “Moscow” reigning as the greatest in his class and rightly so. He was a special type of horse who for a period of four great years couldn’t be beaten unless he met a fence wrong and failed to complete the course. That perception of vulnerability also added to his allure for racing fans and as with all those 2m specialist horses brave enough to go hell for leather over fences at the top level it’s a trait you have to get used to…
Moscow Flyer can be credited with owning a division for a prolonged period and by process of elimination takes out the likes of Arkle and Champion Chase winner Azertyuiop, Arkle winner Well Chief, Arkle and Champion Chase winner Flagship Uberalles and others from the reckoning proper for the title – albeit they were part of a special generation.
The best of Moscow Flyer’s wins is generally regarded at the Tingle Creek success – Sandown 2003 – hype and needle prior to it ramped it up to something special and it did not fail to deliver.
A truly breathtaking display at the peak of his powers….
Trainer Jessica Harrington recalls Moscow’s career and this win with the #RaceHour Podcast team here:
Go back a little bit further and one of the best 2m battles of all time took place at Cheltenham in March 2000 as Edredon Bleu, a winner of 25 races from 57 starts, took on the nothern star that was Direct Route. The result of the race is still in doubt for many! Depending on which side of the argument you were on and the scrawl placed on your betting slip that day…
What a race…
Edredon Bleu can’t win this though, effective over further and a proper horse handled brilliantly by Henrietta Knight it’s a specialist we’re looking for so and it’s a harsh cull of a mighty animal.
Another who can’t win this although he was ridiculously good is Flyingbolt. A wonder horse but I stipulated specialist’s were needed for this, so it’s typical perhaps, that as Jim McGrath says in the video below “he gets left out all the time…”.
Flyingbolt won a Thyestes Chase, Champion Chase (from book comment “took lead 2 out, canter”), 24 hours later was third in the Champion Hurdle ( probably should have won ) and then that same year of 1966, landed the Irish Grand National carrying 12st7lbs giving more weight away than could be imagined in this day and age of steeple-chasing.
The gentlemen below tell the tale better than I…and it’s some story.
Many still will not be old enough to remember the likes of Skymas, a two time winner of the Champion Chase in the 70’s, similar comments apply to Hilly Way, then three time winner Badsworth Boy in the early 80’s.
The 1983 Champion Chase was something to see. Badsworth Boy by the length of the straight – they needed more cameras to find the also rans!
To apply an evolutionary style cull to these greats and others is harsh but necessary – racing is quicker and horses trained harder now. It’s therefore hard to argue that they would have been top of the tree in Moscow’s time or in the current division with Un De Sceaux, and reigning champ Sprinter Sacre. There is of course a new kid on the block too and although yet to be tested in open company the delightful Douvan must be on the list – but not top of it yet!
A mention has to go to One Man, the brilliant grey ( white in fact ) monster of a chaser for Gordon Richards who jumped and travelled like a machine but never won at the Cheltenham Festival until dropping to the minimum distance in the Champion Chase of 1998. He got a lot further than 2m but his jumping and ease of speed between the fences told on rivals that year.
Getting closer to the present day and the dual Champion Chase winner Master Minded, the highest rated chaser in the World in 2007/08 when at the peak of his brilliance. He slammed the best around by 19 lengths in a dismissive romp at the Festival that season and many thought he’d reign for many a year.
The only 5 year old to win the race and like a lot of French bred’s he had it all together and more whilst others were getting schooled in bumpers and maiden hurdles. As Ruby Walsh said at the time he “annihilated them…”.
Alastair Down, one of the best narrators the sport has ever had, delivers a Master Minded masterclass here:
The crown swapped hooves and heads for a spell as Big Zeb’s jumping held together by straw was enough to win in 2010, Sizing Europe jumped rivals to submission in 2011 and Finian’s Rainbow denied him the following year. That was in a controversy strewn final flight swerve up the Cheltenham hill that perhaps is the reason Sizing Europe doesn’t get the nod at the top table…
Then came Sprinter Sacre.
A more beautiful specimen is hard to find, the jet black aeroplane is the third highest rated steeplechaser of all time by Timeform at 192p ( the p is a brilliant add on! ).
Unbeaten over fences until quickly pulled up against Sire De Grugy in the Desert Orchid chase at Kempton in 2013 his run saw him land 7 Grade 1 events in a row including the Arkle and the Champion Chase but atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart beat took him off the track for more than a year.
He returned with a quiet but respectable second to Special Tiara at Sandown in the Celebration Chase of January 2015 and people wondered whether the old Sprinter could return. Connections were pleased enough to go for it from there and the rest is history still being written.
Not a dry eye in the house as Sprinter Sacre waltzed away with the Champion Chase in March of this year. Regaining his title, redemption for his trainer who had received criticism for even trying to bring him back and with Nico de Boinville aboard, the faithful work rider promoted to the cockpit it’s quite a beautiful thing to watch…
What about a verdict then?
Sit on the fence and enjoy them all back is my call. If the greatest of them all isn’t Moscow Flyer or Sprinter Sacre then there both are in my top one anyway.
Imagine those two, Master Minded in his youthful pomp, One Man leading them along with Sizing Europe, Douvan with another few races under his saddle cloth and Direct Route upside Edredon Bleu jumping the last….and then pass out!
Pick your own scenario from those mentioned above, apply some recency bias as I have if you like and then throw in some of those left out.
It’s mecca, utopia and nirvana rolled into 2 miles of majestic chasing for racing fans.
Sprinter came to Punchestown in 2013 and bumped into Moscow Flyer the day before out battling a gallant Sizing Europe on the track – maybe just the presence of Moscow and a bit of eyeballing put Sprinter’s heart into overdrive.
I’d say they would have loved to dual it out.
WANT SOMETHING EXTRA FOR THE WEEKEND? Horse Racing Fans Check this out – Sandown, Aintree, Grade 1 Sunday at Fairyhouse previewed plus Olly Murphy, assistant trainer to Gordon Elliott, talks about their whirlwind start to the season and how Don Cossack is getting on ahead of a penciled in return in the New Year….