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Jockey Barry Geraghty's gesture to the grandstand said it all, writes David Owen at Cheltenham. With young challenger Well Chief finally subdued and arch-rival Azertyuiop trailing far behind, Geraghty stood up in his stirrups and acknowledged the heavily Irish-tinged Cheltenham roar. The old champion, Moscow Flyer, was back.
The 2003 victor and 6/4 favourite thus regained his two-mile crown after last year's mishap, in the feature race of the second day, the £250,000 Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase. It was a near flawless performance for his 18th win over fences - and an unbeaten record in completed starts - with only a peck at the third detracting from as secure a display of jumping as one could wish to see.
But the race was not the classic many had hoped for, due to a catastrophic error by last year's winner, Azertyuiop, under Ruby Walsh, who left both hind legs in the water and never regained momentum, trailing in a distant third at 2/1.
The six-year-old Well Chief, a 7/2 chance ridden by Timmy Murphy, did his best to put the winner under pressure once he hit the front with two fences to jump, giving up the battle only in the closing stages. But he never quite looked like getting on terms, although his stock will have risen further and his day may come.
"Different class," was Geraghty's verdict on his 11- year-old chaser. On Wednesday's evidence, it was hard to dis- agree, but he will have to defy advancing years if he is to secure a third win next year.
Earlier, Trabolgan recovered from a mistake at the second-last fence to give trainer Nicky Henderson his first winner at this year's festival in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase.
Despite the error, Mick Fitz- gerald was able to bring the seven-year-old through to overtake leader Comply Or Die at the last. Comply Or Die rallied up the hill, but Trabolgan (5/1) had enough in reserve to win by three lengths, with Cornish Rebel a similar distance away in third.
* Thursday's Cheltenham Gold Cup has lost yet another contender. Farmer Jack, which was rated at 12/1 for the blue riband race, died early on Wednesday of a suspected heart attack on the gallops. Phillip Hobbs, the horse's trainer, said: "We presume it was a heart attack."
The field has already been hit by the withdrawal of 7/2 favourite Kingscliff on Tuesday while Best Mate, the three-times winner, was withdrawn last week after breaking a blood vessel.
* India's Sachin Tendulkar became only the fifth batsman to complete 10,000 Test runs and Rahul Dravid struck his 19th hundred on the first day of the second Test against Pakistan in Calcutta. Dravid was out for 110 off the last ball as India reached 344 for 6 after captain Saurav Ganguly elected to bat first on his home ground.
Leg spinner Danish Kaneria had Dravid caught behind to end his almost five-hour effort in sapping humidity as India lost four quick wickets in the evening session. Dravid , 32, shared in a 122-run third-wicket partnership with Tendulkar after adding 76 for the second with opener Virender Sehwag, who made 81.
Tendulkar achieved the landmark of 10,000 runs when he flicked a single against medium-pacer Abdul Razzaq to reach 27 soon after tea. Former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar was the first player to accumulate 10,000 runs, later joined by Australians Allan Border and Steve Waugh and Brian Lara of West Indies.
* Wales coach Mike Ruddock has named an unchanged side for his team's RBS 6 Nations attempt at a grand slam against Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday. Wales, seeking their first championship clean sweep since 1978, will face an Irish side with title and Triple Crown aspirations.
Ruddock has kept faith with the team that defeated Scotland at Murrayfield last weekend. Cardiff wing Rhys Williams has shaken off a calf muscle injury, while hooker Mefin Davies and replacement back Hal Luscombe are also fully fit.
Leicester prop Matt Hampson remains in intensive care after suffering a serious neck injury while training for England's under-21 international against Scotland on Friday. Hampson, 20, was rushed to Northampton General Hospital on Wednesday after a scrummaging accident at Franklin's Gardens.
* Frenchman Bruno Peyron smashed American Steve Fossett's round-the-world sailing record, finishing his journey seven days ahead of the American. Peyron's Orange 2 catamaran and its crew of 13 crossed the finish line near Ile d'Ouessant, Brittany, in a time of 50 days, 16 hours, 20 minutes and four seconds.
* The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, Formula One's ruling body, has closed a loophole in new rules governing the use of engines after BAR retired their cars towards the end of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. The regulations say engines must last for two successive races with any unscheduled changes incurring a 10-place penalty on the starting grid. However, the penalty did not apply to cars that failed to finish the race.
On Wednesday, the FIA said the team of any driver who failed to finish the first of the engine's two races would have to explain the circumstances to race stewards. "As a result of what happened on the last lap of the race in Melbourne a distinction will now be made between failing to finish and choosing not to finish," the FIA said.
BAR retired their cars in Australia to enable drivers Jenson Button and Takuma Sato to have new engines for Sunday's Malaysia Grand Prix without penalty.
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