Flemenstar to pass the stamina test

 

Racehorses will never give you an answer when they can come up with a new question instead.

Taken at face value, Flemenstar’s performance at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting seemed to settle pretty definitively the debate over his eligibility for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup. Though ridden with more restraint than usual, trying three miles for the first time, he jumped and galloped with his regular gusto only for the fuel to run abruptly dry on the run-in. The rallying First Lieutenant seized his chance, only to be collared on the post by Tidal Bay, with Flemenstar just half a length down and Sir Des Champs breathing down their necks in fourth.

The immediate temptation was to wonder how Flemenstar might fare if dropped to two miles, for a showdown with Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. But connections have instead wondered whether things might have turned out better, had they played their hand a little differently. Sure enough, today they bring him back to the same course and distance in the hope of settling the matter, once and for all, in the Hennessy Gold Cup.

As ever with this horse, it is hard to see things objectively. In a sport increasingly dominated by wealthy patrons of the very biggest yards, romantics have been enchanted by his emergence from a tiny stable supervised by that mischievous veteran, Peter Casey. The principal aspiration for today, then, must be that Flemenstar can end all equivocation over the best deployment of his tremendous gifts at Cheltenham next month. Paradoxically, it might yet prove that he was undone last time by precisely the circumspection that seemed prudent in experimenting with his stamina. Flemenstar had relished positive tactics over shorter  distances and will probably be permitted to flow along this time – an approach that could well pay off in this small field.

But even success for Flemenstar (3.20) today would not necessarily disqualify Sir Des Champs as Ireland’s best hope for the Gold Cup. This is the pair’s third consecutive skirmish and, with March his priority throughout, Sir Des Champs is shaping as though he will take a step forward each time. There remains scope to sharpen up his jumping, and Willie Mullins, his trainer, will doubtless be satisfied simply to see him attack his fences, and finish off the race strongly.

Mullins, as Goliath to Casey’s David, is predictably the man to beat in each of the other Grade One races on the card. At least John Ferguson is showing the enterprise that reliably eludes more established British trainers, by daring to take on Mullins in his back yard with two good novices of his own.

All in all it is a big day in the parallel career of Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock manager, who has exhibited corresponding nerve in holding back Cotton Mill (3.35) for the valuable Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. Whether or not he could have held off Simonsig, Cotton Mill was still going strongly when veering left and unseating two out at the Festival last year. He remains completely unexposed at this shorter distance, and there is something highly purposeful about the way Ferguson has kept his powder dry with a possible Champion Hurdle challenge in mind.

The favourite, My Tent Or Yours, represents a trainer with a fine record in this race and brings a similar profile to Darlan, who was poised to win when crashing out last year. He has plenty of weight for a novice, however, and Cash And Go appeals as better value. Either way, their stable could certainly do with a tonic after the tragedy that claimed Darlan at Doncaster on Monday.

At least that will place minor irritations in due perspective for Nicky Henderson. Two weeks after a poor scope ruled Bobs Worth out of his Festival trial, he has similarly had to scratch Simonsig from his intended rehearsal on this card. With Long Run, meanwhile, sitting out the Betfair Denman Chase, top billing instead goes to Silviniaco Conti (2.25), who has found an ideal warm-up for the Gold Cup. This race has sometimes presented top-class steeplechasers in a fairly unflattering light, and Paul Nicholls warns that the favourite will “improve enormously” after his break, but it would be surprising if he failed to outjump these rivals.

For two smaller yards, the biggest race of the weekend looms at Exeter tomorrow where success for Puffin Billy or Melodic Rendezvous would respectively renew or amplify the reputations of Oliver Sherwood and Jeremy Scott.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Fire In Babylon (12.50 Lingfield)

Next best

Barrakilla (3.25 Uttoxeter)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there