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Tributes paid to Flagship Uberalles as Champion Chase hero dies aged 26

Flagship Uberalles: won the Champion Chase in 2002
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Tributes have been paid to top-class two-mile chaser Flagship Uberalles, who passed away on Friday aged 26 at owner JP McManus's Martinstown Stud in County Limerick.

A tough and popular chaser for a variety of trainers when running in the colours of American owner Michael Krystofiak and his wife Elisabeth Gutner before later being sold to McManus, Flagship Uberalles won an epic renewal of the 2002 Queen Mother Champion Chase for Philip Hobbs.  

Hobbs said on Saturday: “He was one of the best horses we had through our hands, but he was always a horse who was at his best when fresh. On his best days he was very good.

"He was the first horse we had for JP, and also I think he was the first winner we had for JP when he won at Punchestown. He is certainly among the very best I have trained.”

Philip Hobbs trained Flagship Uberalles to land the 2002 Queen Mother Champion Chase

A maiden in two runs on the Flat for Dermot Weld at three, Flagship Uberalles began to improve as a four-year-old when handled by Pat Flynn, for whom he won his first two starts over hurdles before finishing a very close third to Zafarabad in the Grade 1 Champion Four Year Old Hurdle at Punchestown in 1998.

Flynn recalled: “He was the only horse I had at home who could go with French Ballerina, who was a very good Flat mare and almost broke the track record when she won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham. He was well able to hold his own with her and he was a phenomenal animal to have. He probably should have won the Grade 1 at Punchestown.”

The son of Accordion was sold later that spring to Krystofiak, and enjoyed some stellar days when trained by Paul Nicholls, winning eight times in all for the multiple champion trainer. Included in this was a run of six straight wins in 1999, which incorporated the Arkle at Cheltenham, the Maghull Novices' Chase at Aintree, and in the following season a memorable defeat of Direct Route in a vintage running of the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.

“We won some nice races with him. He was a proper horse for us and won some very nice races," Nicholls said. "His win in the Arkle with Joe Tizzard on board was my first Cheltenham winner and was probably my most memorable day with him."

Krystofiak sent him briefly to Lambourn trainer Noel Chance, for whom his only win in four starts came in the 2000 running of the Tingle Creek, which had been transferred to Cheltenham, before he was sent to Hobbs, for whom he arguably enjoyed his finest season.

A third straight victory in the Tingle Creek in 2001, back at its Sandown home, under amateur Robert Widger, was an ideal launchpad for the season, and he was not seen out again until he produced a battling performance on rain-softened ground under Richard Johnson to land his sole Champion Chase victory in March 2002.

His final run for his American owners came when pulled up on his sole try at 3m in the King George at Kempton later that year, after which he was sold to McManus. He only managed one victory for McManus, when landing the 2003 running of the Grade 1 BMW Champion Chase at Punchestown, but he did fill the runner-up spot to Azertyuiop in the 2004 Queen Mother Champion Chase, before he was retired to Martinstown at the end of a disappointing 2004-05 season.

McManus's racing manager Frank Berry said: “He was a great age and he had a lovely retirement. He was a great old horse for us, he won the Grade 1 at Punchestown for us and ran a blinder when he was second in the Champion Chase, and he lived to 26, which is a grand old age.”

Flagship Uberalles was the winner of 14 of his 40 races, including seven Grade 1s, and more than £625,000 in total prize-money.

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He is certainly among the very best I have trained
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