The Punter: Flemenstar can win big showdown to signal Cheltenham ambitions
Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs are the big guns in Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown, renewing their rivalry which surfaced in the Lexus over three miles at the Christmas meeting.
On that occasion Flemenstar looked all over the winner jumping the last, but ran out of gas and was pipped by Tidal Bay and First Lieutenant with Sir Des Champs fourth.
On expected better terrain, Flemenstar is taken to oblige. One way or other, it will determine whether trainer Peter Casey targets Cheltenham's Gold Cup or bids for the Queen Mother Champion Chase next month.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins will be hoping Sir Des Champs can enhance his Gold Cup prospects but, whatever happens, Mullins can win with Un Atout (11/10) in the Deloitte Juvenile Hurdle, a race which includes the talented Moscow Mannon, trained by Downpatrick's Brian Hamilton, currently 7/1 and worth an each-way shout.
But the solid bet has to be Flemenstar and Un Atout in a double at a tasty 17/5.
Everyone in racing will be gutted at the sad fate of Champion Hurdle hope Darlan who, with perennial champion jockey AP McCoy on board, was all set for victory at Doncaster on Monday but suffered a fatal fall at the last. Such is the precarious margin between glory and demise.
But the show goes on and expect Ulsterman McCoy to be in a better frame of mind when My Tent Or Yours takes the Betfair Hurdle on Saturday at 9/2.