03/13/2002 12:00AM

'Flagship' wins at Cheltenham

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Flagship Uberalles was a smashing winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival in England on Wednesday. The victory established him as the top two-mile chaser in Europe.

Under Richard Johnson, favorite Flagship Uberalles fell behind a fast pace and was clumsy at some of the early jumps. But he fiercely rallied with three fences to go and caught and passed Cenkos after the last jump. He won by three lengths over Native Upmanship, with Cenkos slipping to third.

The winner was heavily backed all day, pounded from 3-1 down to 3-2 by post time.

Johnson's vigorous ride was penalized with a four-day ban after the race for excessive use of the whip.

Owner Michael Krysztofiak said he would resist the temptation to send the winner to the lucrative Grand Jump in Tokyo.

"There is a temptation, but pigs get roasted," he told The Racing Post.