Flemenstar back in winner's circle
Racing:Flemenstar made a superb seasonal reappearance with an impressive victory in the Irish Form Book Fortria Chase at Navan. Peter Casey’s seven-year-old enjoyed an exceptional novice campaign over fences, building on a promising second to Bog Warrior with five consecutive wins.
Coming back to two miles on his first appearance since winning the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse in early April, Flemenstar was sent straight to the lead by Andrew Lynch and produced some brilliant leaps to maintain control of the race.
He was tracked into the straight by Foildubh and Big Zeb, the latter searching for a fourth consecutive win in this Grade Two prize, but 10-11 favourite Flemenstar saw them off with ease, beating Big Zeb by seven lengths.
Coral cut Flemenstar to 7-1 from 9-1 for this season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Whatuthink produced a tremendously game performance to inflict a shock defeat on Voler La Vedette in the Lismullen Hurdle.
Colm Murphy’s top-class mare was a 1-7 favourite to claim this Grade Two prize for the second successive year and was ridden with extreme confidence by Lynch, settled right out the back of the field.
She made good headway heading down the back straight to take much closer order and was within a couple of lengths of the front-running Whatuthink jumping the second from home, but could not get any closer.
In fact, 25-1 shot Whatuthink asserted running to the final obstacle and safely negotiated it to seal victory, passing the post with four and a quarter lengths in hand.
Winning trainer Oliver McKiernan said: “He has always had ability. We decided to go back over hurdles with him. It was a great performance by him but maybe fitness over the others was the key. He was tipping away all summer while the others were just starting out.
“He loves that ground and he kept going. He will go to Leopardstown now at Christmas and he might run before then. The plan was to make plenty of use of him and if they were good enough to go by him so be it.”
Henry de Bromhead’s Sizing Rio led his rivals from start to finish in the Grade Three ‘For Auction’ Novice Hurdle.
Andrew Lynch sent the 4-5 favourite straight to the front in the two-mile contest and it was clear from the home turn the majority of his opponents would struggle to peg back the deficit.
There were a few moments of concern for favourite-backers, however, as Ruby Walsh conjured a dangerous-looking run out of Ted Veale between the final two flights. But Sizing Rio went again once Walsh’s mount was on his tail and was always doing enough at the finish to score by a length and a half.
De Bromhead said: “That was good and I’m delighted with it. Andrew said that he was a bit hard to get around the bends in front.
“He is real galloping horse and the faster they go the better he is. He is a big raw four-year-old and he is a real horse for the future and fences. We will give him a break now and probably bring him back for Leopardstown at Christmas.
“Hopefully there won’t be a problem with him going left-handed there. He is not entered in the Royal Bond and I think he will be better on better ground.”
Stan James cut Sizing Rio to 20-1 from 25-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
De Bromhead confirmed stable star Sizing Europe on course for the Clonmel Oil Chase on Thursday.
Our Conor made the perfect start to his career over obstacles with a comfortable victory in the Follow Navan Racecourse Facebook 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle at Navan.
A dual winner on the level and only once out of the first three, the youngster was a warm order as the 8-13 favourite for his jumping debut.
Bryan Cooper kept things simple on board the Dessie Hughes inmate and was always travelling powerfully towards the head of affairs.
Casual Creeper momentarily loomed up as a danger at the top of the home straight, but Our Conor soon saw off his attentions and pulled right away after winging the final flight to register an eight-and-a-half-length victory.
Hughes said: “He can jump. He schooled well from day one. He was fit and his form was good on the Flat. He handles heavy ground and I suppose it will be Christmas next for him. He is a nice three-year-old."
Cooper completed a double on the day as Ballyfinboy clung on in the St Johann Ski Resort Tirol Austria Handicap Hurdle.
The 7-1 shot held a seemingly unassailable lead rounding the home bend, but unsurprisingly got weary between the final two flights.
Tarquinius was closing the gap all the way up the run-in but the post just came in time for Ballyfinboy to emerge triumphant by a neck.
Winning trainer Jimmy Finn said: “He got away well. He does stay. He’s a much better horse on better ground. Chasing is his main aim. He’ll have a few more runs over hurdles.”