Operation rules Flemenstar out of Punchestown Festival
Sprinter Sacre confirmed for Tuesday’s Champion Chase
Flemenstar will undergo a wind operation and miss next week’s Punchestown Festival. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Flemenstar has been ruled out of the Boylesports.com Champion Chase at the Punchestown Festival on Tuesday after connections decided to give the eight-year-old a wind operation.
Peter Casey’s gelding looked set to take the season by storm after winning his first two starts of the campaign in impressive fashion, but things have not gone to plan since.
Flemenstar was narrowly beaten on his first attempt at three miles in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, before chasing home Sir Des Champs in the Hennessy Gold Cup in February.
He missed the Cheltenham Festival after it was discovered he was suffering from a lung infection and although he returned to action at Aintree, he appeared well below-par in finishing a distant third in the Melling Chase behind Sprinter Sacre.
Casey said: “He won’t be running in Punchestown. When he came home from Liverpool, he was all wrong. He had stuff coming out of his nose, it wasn’t blood but it was a bit like it, and the vet came to see him every day for a week.
“He didn’t run his race at all in Liverpool. That’s as bad as I’ve ever seen him run. He’s going to have a little wind operation now. The jockey (Andrew Lynch) thinks he needs it and now is the right time to do it.
“Hopefully everything will be right for next season, it will be the same routine, and the next time you’ll see him will probably be at Navan in November (Fortria Chase).”
Sprinter Sacre stood his ground among eight entries remaining in the race.
Nicky Henderson’s brilliant seven-year-old has again been imperious this season, taking his unbeaten run over fences to nine with victories at Sandown, twice at Cheltenham and most recently at Aintree.
Some 19 lengths behind Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase was Sizing Europe, and Henry de Bromhead’s 11-year-old, winner of this race 12 months ago, could reoppose.
Second to Henderson’s ‘black aeroplane’ at Aintree was the Colin Tizzard-trained Cue Card, and he too still holds an engagement.
Henderson has an alternative to Sprinter Sacre in Finian’s Rainbow, the former champion chaser who was fourth to his illustrious stablemate in the two-and-a-half-mile Melling Chase at Aintree.
De Bromhead also has a second string to his bow in the shape of Days Hotel. Foildubh, Mad Moose and Noble Prince complete the octet.
Charles Byrnes is hopeful stable star Solwhit will be ready to line up at Punchestown next week after returning home from his impressive Aintree triumph “a bit flat”.
With Big Buck’s sidelined by injury, Solwhit has established himself as the leading staying hurdler in training by winning the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, before following up in Aintree’s Liverpool Hurdle.
The nine-year-old is now set for a tantalising clash with Willie Mullins’s mare Quevega in the Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle.
Quevega has won the Grade One contest for the last three years and last month landed the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham for a remarkably fifth straight year.
Byrnes said: “As long as he is 100 per cent, I am looking forward to taking on Quevega and it looks like it is going to be a really good race.
“I will leave a definite decision until the weekend because he only ran at Aintree two weeks ago.
“He didn’t come out of the race at Aintree as well as he did at Cheltenham, which surprised me. The initial intention was not to run at Aintree and wait for Punchestown but he came out of Cheltenham so well, we decided to go.
“He had such an easy race in Aintree, we thought he would come out of it bubbling but he’s a bit flat and we will just wait for him to come alive. I am pretty hopeful that he will be OK by the weekend.
“Although he won easily at Aintree, I don’t think it was a better performance than at Cheltenham. The fourth horse at Aintree was only rated 138 and there was nothing like Quevega in the race.”