Moscow Flyer and Barry Geraghty forged a spectacular partnership during an epic era in jump racing. The Jessica Harrington-trained gelding won 26 races from 44 starts, including 13 Grade Ones with Barry in the saddle, claiming two Champion Chases and an Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival, and the Tingle Creek at Sandown twice.
But brilliant as Moscow was on the racecourse, his bold, fearless jumping sometimes resulted in near-catastrophic mishaps and it was early on in Moscow’s career that Barry remembers a crashing fall that very nearly ended in disaster.
In the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in 2001, a traditional outing for all Ireland’s top two-mile hurdlers, Moscow reached dramatically for the second last hurdle, resulting in a “crashing fall” according to his trainer. Both Moscow and Barry skidded some 20 yards across the turf but instead of then careering off with the rest of the field, as Moscow usually would, the gelding stood motionless – with Barry dangling beneath him.
“I was semi-concussed, hanging out of the stirrup but just managed to wiggle enough to get free,” remembers Barry, whose boot had caught in the iron. “But those seconds feel like minutes. I’d say Moscow was a bit dazed from the fall but he just stood there long enough for me to get free. He was looking out for me that day.”
This race was one of three eyeball-to-eyeball duels between Moscow Flyer and the mighty Istabraq during Moscow’s hurdling years. Moscow would utilise every ounce of his raw, exhilarating jumping style, but in each of their three battles either Moscow or Istabraq crashed out, allowing the other a confident victory, and it was Istabraq who triumphed that day at Leopardstown.
Moscow would have his turn in the winner’s enclosure three months later at the same track when winning the Irish champion hurdle. The race would seal a stellar hurdling career before he stepped up to fences and the rest, as they say, is history.
- You can read the full amazing story of Moscow Flyer in Horse & Hound’s Legends Of The Sport series, in the shops on Thursday 17 March.
- We’ll be bringing you the best of the action from this week’s Cheltenham Festival (15-18 March) both online and in print in next week’s issue (24 March) of H&H.
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