Flemenstar floors Durkan rivals
Irish racing has a new folk hero as Peter Casey's Flemenstar continued his progression through the ranks with his third Grade One victory in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.
Not since the days of Tom Foley and Danoli has the racing public taken a horse and trainer so much to heart - and in Casey the seven-year-old has a trainer revelling in the limelight with the horse of a lifetime.
He took his winning run over fences to seven and in the process turned on the afterburners to beat the Willie Mullins-trained Sir Des Champs by a comfortable five lengths.
Both horses are now prominent in the betting for the Cheltenham Gold Cup over three and a quarter miles, so how much relevance this victory over two and a half miles will have in March is up for debate.
Flemenstar (even-money favourite) made all the running under Andrew Lynch and once again jumped with such alacrity at the head of affairs that his lead was continually stretched in effortless fashion. Last year's winner Rubi Light trailed in a well-beaten last of three.
Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs could well clash again in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28.
In the immediate aftermath, Casey raised the possibility of running in the Dial-A-Bet Chase over two miles and a furlong at Christmas, but that option was later ruled out as he is unlikely to be supplemented by owner Stephen Curran, who is keen to try three miles next.
Casey said: "I'm delighted with that, and he's still not ready! He'll go to Leopardstown at Christmas and will get three miles. I've never had any doubt about him getting three miles. We'll have to see how he comes out of this race first. The Gold Cup is still the plan long-term."
Mullins said of Sir Des Champs: "My fellow ran a good, solid race, and there is a lot to look forward to. He will probably run at Christmas and I will have to chat to the owners. We were staying on well at the finish, he jumped well enough and it was his first run of the season.
"I don't think three miles will be a problem, he galloped all the way to the line. He's entered in the Lexus, King George and the Dial-A-Bet. He could run in the two-mile race (Dial-A-Bet) to get further experience, but we will have to see how he comes out of this and discuss it."