Flemenstar shines at Punchestown


Presumably it will not take long for people to start hailing Sprinter Sacre as a two-mile steeplechaser without precedent, in keeping with the fatuous instinct that seems to demand indulgence with each new champion, both over jumps and on the Flat.

Those captivated by the sheer vitality of his reappearance at Sandown on Saturday should instead confine themselves to praying simply that he remains sound as his gorgeous physique nears maturity. And they might also count their blessings, that not quite 24 hours were required to volunteer a horse whose own exuberance made the divergence of their present paths a matter of wistful regret.

Certainly, the hallmark of Flemenstar's latest dominant performance, at Punchestown yesterday, was its boldness and precision. And while others might duly be inclined to keep him at two and a half miles, or even drop him back in trip for a showdown with Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, connections instead intend to explore his stamina.

Not that anyone will be quibbling with Peter Casey, the veteran trainer whose handling of Flemenstar qualifies their story as a romantic throwback to the days before the big spenders channelled all the best young prospects into the same few yards. For so small a stable to house a talent as immense as Flemenstar is nowadays a marvel indeed.

Not that there will be undue despondency in the camp of Sir Des Champs, himself in the care of a man who tends to give monopoly a good name, in Willie Mullins.

Sir Des Champs squared up to Flemenstar in the John Durkan Chase as a dual Cheltenham Festival winner, unbeaten in five starts over fences. But Flemenstar, spared Cheltenham as a novice, arrived with the advantage of having a race under his belt already this season, having won his sixth consecutive chase at Navan last month. It was always likely, then, that he might prise open fissures in the fitness of Sir Des Champs, who was making his first start since April.

Sure enough, Davy Russell was obliged to drive his mount along merely to join issue as they turned in, with Flemenstar still tanking along under Andrew Lynch. Another bold leap two out confirmed the leader to be nowhere near the margin of his comfort zone and Flemenstar came bounding five lengths clear. Russell, meanwhile, confined himself to just the one firm slap on Sir Des Champs. The only other runner, the useful Rubi Light, was beaten out of sight.

"He's still not ready," said Casey. "I've never had any doubt about him getting three miles and the Gold Cup is still the plan, long term."

He will now prepare Flemenstar for a race at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting, almost certainly in the Lexus Chase over three miles – though Casey was intriguingly reserving the right to drop back in trip for the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase. "I don't want to get to the bottom of him at this stage," he added. "If we feel it's best for the horse, he could go for the two-mile race at Christmas."

Mullins expressed satisfaction with Sir Des Champs, while acknowledging that he had at no stage been deceived that his horse might win. He may opt for a rematch in the Lexus, but will also consider the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Sir Des Champs has so far sampled three miles only once, outclassing a small field at Punchestown, but for now remains entitled to avenge yesterday's defeat given a stiffer test in March. For now Ladbrokes eased his Gold Cup odds from 5-1 to 7-1, while promoting Flemenstar to a share of 4-1 favouritism with Bobs Worth.

The latter, of course, is a stablemate of Sprinter Sacre and had himself made an impeccable start to his second season over fences at Newbury the previous weekend. However, if any British trainer can match the delight of Nicky Henderson just now, then it must be Ed Dunlop after saddling Red Cadeaux to win the Hong Kong Vase yesterday.

Having come within a nose of landing a first Melbourne Cup for Britain last year, Red Cadeaux this time had a lucrative photo go his way and so embellished Dunlop's exceptional cv in international racing.

Turf account

CHRIS McGRATH'S NAP: King Brex (12.20 Musselburgh)

Ran his best race for his new stable when second over hurdles round here last time and returns to fences looking very well treated.

NEXT BEST: Blenheim Brook (2.50 Musselburgh)

Introduces class to this grade, having kept good company when second at Kelso last time, and has slipped temptingly down the weights.

ONE TO WATCH: Haaf A Sixpence (Ralph Beckett) is lightly raced and shaped well on his return from a lay-off at Kempton last week, clinging pluckily to third.

WHERE THE MONEY'S GOING: Road To Riches, who extended his unbeaten record for Noel Meade at Cork yesterday, is 16-1 from 25-1 with Sky Bet for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam