Flemenstar is set to return to action at Punchestown on the final day of this month on the back of a memorable Christmas return to Grade One winning form that makes the popular veteran a singular figure this season.
The 11 year old star secured the fourth top-flight prize of his career when taking advantage of Un De Sceaux's dramatic Leopardstown fall on the second day of the Christmas festival, in the process giving Co Meath-based Tony Curran the first success of his fledgling training career.
Curran is now weighing up the possibility of bringing Flemenstar back for another potential clash with Un De Sceaux in the Grade Two Boylesports Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown or alternatively waiting a little longer for the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park.
“It will more than likely be Punchestown but there’s the Red Mills too,” Curran said, before all but ruling out a trip to the Cheltenham festival in March. “The ground won’t be soft enough there.”
Flemenstar is as low as 20-1 in some ante-post lists for the Ryanair at Cheltenham, and 33-1 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, but his Grade One Christmas success has been one of the feelgood stories of a season dominated by racing's big guns.
Of the 14 Grade One races run so far, Flemenstar's Paddy Power 'iphone App' Chase success, has been the sole one not won by either of Ireland's top two trainers, Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott.
With 20 top-flight prizes still to go, Mullins has already won nine in Ireland and a dozen overall thanks to Faugheen’s Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, Yorkhill’s Tolworth Hurdle success and Thousand Stars winning the Prix d’Autonme at Auteuil in November.
If he and Elliott dominate the trainers' Grade One haul, it's a similarly exclusive story among owners with Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud winning five, including two for No More Heroes, and Rich Ricci landing four top prizes. Graham Wylie has secured three Grade One prizes in Ireland this season, including Bellshill at Naas nine days ago.
The next Grade One programme will be at Leopardstown on Sunday week for which the Mullins-trained Douvan is already a 1-6 favourite in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Chase and the Closutton trio of Faugheen, Nichols Canyon and Arctic Fire head betting for the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle.
Before that, Leopardstown hosts a big handicap fixture with the Mullins-trained Kalkir as low as 7-1 favourite for the Coral Hurdle. Gordon Elliott’s Ucello Conti is a 7-1 market leader for the Coral Chase there.
Ground conditions at Leopardstown are “heavy” after 35mms of rain fell over the weekend and trainer
, who boasted a perfect three winners from three runners at the track over Christmas, is hoping the JP McManus-owned Dressedtothenines gets a chance to run in the Coral Chase.
“She needs a few to come out to get a run. At the moment she’s about 5lb out of the handicap, but if she does get in she’ll run. She’s already got valuable black type. She beat the boys in a Grade Two over hurdles and she won a Grade Three over fences first time out this year. She’s had a few little problems but she’s back in good form now,” said Harty.
Dressedtothenines is one of the 10-1 second-favourites in early betting for the race ahead of today’s forfeit stage.
Un De Sceaux has Saturday week's Clarence House Chase at Ascot as an alternative Cheltenham festival warm-up to the Tied Cottage and Willie Mullins will take his time about deciding which option to choose.
“He’s in the two races at Ascot and the Tied Cottage in Punchestown, which is just up the road from me. We’ll see how he is nearer to the time what we’ll do,” he said.