Casey sets Gold Cup target for Flemenstar
Peter Casey remains confident Flemenstar can develop into a serious Cheltenham Gold Cup candidate despite a scintillating victory over the minimum trip on his seasonal reappearance at Navan.
Making his first start since winning the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse at the end of a brilliant novice campaign, the seven-year-old turned in an exhibition round of jumping to deny top two-miler Big Zeb a fourth successive win in the Fortria Chase.
The handicapper was clearly impressed by Flemenstar’s performance and has been raised 5lb in the ratings to a mark of 158. Flemenstar has yet to be tested beyond two and a half miles and given his raw speed, it is hardly surprising some believe he could make his presence felt in either the Queen Mother Champion Chase or the Ryanair Chase at the Festival. Casey, however, only has eyes for the extended three-and-a-quarter-mile blue riband and said: “Everything is grand this morning and we’re very happy with him.
“He couldn’t have done any more than he did yesterday. I see some people are still doubting him and whether he’ll get three miles, but I don’t think he’ll have any trouble with the trip. He’s a lovely, big horse and he idles a bit in front.”
Casey confirmed he would step back up to two and a half miles for the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on December 9th before testing the water over three miles in Leopardstown’s Lexus Chase over Christmas. “Anything can happen, obviously, but the plan is to go to Punchestown next and then on to Leopardstown for the Lexus,” said the trainer. People are talking about the Champion Chase and the Ryanair and I suppose we could look that way if for some reason he doesn’t get three miles at Christmas, but that is not the plan at the moment. I’m confident he’ll get the trip.”
Andrew Lynch has been ever-present in the saddle during Flemenstar’s career over fences and he too is hopeful the hugely-promising gelding will stay at least three miles.
Lynch said: “He was very good for his first run. We knew going into the race that whatever he did he would improve, so hopefully that is the case.
“He jumped well and travelled well and did it easily. He showed last year he could do it over two and two and a half miles and we’ll see how he gets on over further. You’d like to think he’ll get three miles. He certainly gives you that impression when you ride him and he has won a point-to-point. Whether he’d get three and a quarter miles up that Cheltenham hill is a different matter. Only time will tell.”
Meanwhile, Paul Nolan plans to give Joncol and Noble Prince spins over hurdles following disappointing runs last time out at Down Royal and Aintree. Nolan said of Joncol: “We came away a bit disappointed as he just backed off a few of his fences and didn’t seem to have the appetite for jumping.” Noble Prince showed little spark on his return to action in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree and Nolan said: “He seems well and he’ll go back over hurdles for a conditions race somewhere.”