Casey's Flemenstar may wear earplugs
Doubts about Flemenstar's stamina will be put to the test again in Saturday's Hennessy Chase. Photograph: Inpho
RACING:Anticipation of a Hennessy clash between Ireland’s two current main Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders might be mounting but Flemenstar is unlikely to hear any of it until actual race-time.
Trainer Peter Casey is pondering the use of earplugs on his stable star who is set to clash with Sir Des Champs in Leopardstown’s €160,000 Saturday showpiece.
Flemenstar finished just ahead of his rival in a memorable Lexus Chase clash at Christmas when he finished third to Tidal Bay and was widely considered to be a non-stayer at his first racecourse attempt at three miles.
However, despite many bookmakers subsequently removing Flemenstar from their Cheltenham Gold Cup ante-post lists, and making him favourite for the Ryanair instead, the Casey team are making no firm festival plans until after this weekend.
“He’ll more than likely wear earplugs in the parade ring, as he got very buzzed up beforehand in The Lexus,” Casey reported, while indicating there could be a change in tactics compared to the Lexus.
“His jumping is so good that you don’t want to disappoint him and everyone has a view as to what we should do.”
The Turf Club’s Rule 211(b) regarding the use of ear-plugs places a restriction on their use only during a race when they can’t be removed. Otherwise, they can be used during the preliminaries to a race and taken out before the off.
Sir Des Champs’s trainer Willie Mullins uses plugs on many of his horses, most famously Hurricane Fly, who wears them during races.
Ladbrokes yesterday made Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs 11 to 10 joint-favourites for the Hennessy but victory for either at the weekend will be a long way from any guarantee of blue-riband success at Cheltenham a month later.
It is 20 years since Jodami became the first horse to complete the Hennessy-Cheltenham Gold Cup double, and only one other horse since, Imperial Call in 1996, has followed in his hoof-prints.
Sir Des Champs is currently a general 5 to 1 second favourite behind Bob’s Worth for Cheltenham while some firms continue to go as low as 11 to 1 about Flemenstar despite widespread uncertainty about whether or not he will even line up.
When pressed recently on the range of options for Flemenstar at Cheltenham, Peter Casey admitted: “I’d go for the Queen Mother (Champion Chase).”
Leading owners Graham and Andrea Wylie won’t be represented in the Hennessy but look likely to have a major say in the destination of the Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase.
Their star young chasers, Boston Bob and Back In Focus, both remain in the contention for the Grade One.
The Moriaty opposition could include Dessie Hughes’s Lyreen Legend. The trainer confirmed yesterday: “He runs on Saturday and that will tell us where we’re going. He looks an out-and-out stayer so we may consider the RSA or possibly the National Hunt Chase.”
A proven Cheltenham festival winner will definitely line up on Saturday as Salsify continues to build up to a defence of his Foxhunters Crown.