Flemenstar 'better than he ever was'
RACING: LEOPARDSTOWN NEWSPeter Casey believes Flemenstar is “better than he ever was” ahead of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Saturday week. Having looked all over the winner rounding the home turn on his first attempt at three miles in the Lexus Chase last month, the seven-year-old began to tread water after the final fence and was caught close home by both Tidal Bay and First Lieutenant in a barnstorming finish.
Given he was beaten just three-quarters of a length, connections are keen to have a second attempt at the longer distance in the Hennessy.
Casey said: “He’s in really great form at the moment. I think he’s better than he ever was. He went to the Curragh for a bit of work yesterday (Tuesday) and it went very well, I’m delighted with him. Saturday week is going to tell us whether he stays three miles or not. We’ll know a lot more about where we’re going after that.
“I hope it’s not sticky ground like it was in the Lexus. He can handle good ground and he can handle wet ground, but he doesn’t like it when it’s sticky.
“If the ground is like it was at Leopardstown last weekend, that will do me.” Casey has previously expressed doubts about how Flemenstar would take any potential journey across the Irish Sea, but he is not as concerned now.
“Since Christmas I’ve been taking him down to the beach and he absolutely loves going down there. I don’t think he’d have any trouble with travelling now,” said the trainer.
Flemenstar holds Cheltenham entries in the two-mile Queen Mother Champion Chase, the two-mile-five-furlong Ryanair Chase and the extended three-and-a-quarter-mile Betfred Gold Cup.
Meanwhile, Mouse Morris believes China Rock is ready to show his true colours in the Hennessy Gold Cup .
Last season’s Punchestown Gold Cup hero missed the first part of the new campaign after suffering a setback and did not reappear until last month’s Lexus Chase.
The 10-year-old travelled as well as anything during the race, but predictably weakened in the home straight and passed the post well held in fifth.
Morris is confident his charge will strip fitter for his next run and is keen to see how he fares before making plans for the spring.
He holds entries in both the Ryanair Chase and the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.
Morris said: “China is going to run in the Hennessy and we’ll see where we go after that.
“He’s been in great form since Christmas. He ran well for a long way in the Lexus and just got tired.
“I think he’s come on a ton for the run, so we’ll see how he gets on next time and make a plan from there.”
Two Morris inmates who are Festival-bound are First Lieutenant and Rule The World.
First Lieutenant was beaten just a head by Tidal Bay in the Lexus and appears bound for the Gold Cup, while runaway Naas winner Rule The World is prominent in ante-post lists for both the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett.
“It’s so far so good with them. We’ve had no hiccups yet but there is still over a month to go, which is a long time,” said the trainer.
“Both horses are in good shape at the moment.
“I would say Rule The World will probably run in the two-mile-five-furlong race (Neptune), but I don’t want to commit to that just yet.
Ted Walsh will make a decision after working Seabass this weekend regarding his participation in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Saturday week.