The high-class Flemenstar came through his final piece of work with flying colours ahead of his bid for the Grade 1 Irish Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday and remains the solid 5/4 joint-favourite in the horse racing odds with the likes of Titan Bet for the big Cheltenham Gold Cup trial alongside his old rival Sir Des Champs.
Peter Casey’s charge headed out onto the snow covered Curragh to work on the all-weather gallop on Tuesday and covered a mile-and-a-half in good style, confirming his wellbeing as he prepares to get his championship bid back on track after his winning run came to end last time out when beaten into third in a highly dramatic renewal of the Grade 1 Lexus Chase in late-December.
Sent off favourite to land the ‘Lexus’ on his first attempt at three miles, everything appeared to be going to plan for Andrew Lynch’s mount as he led and was apparently going best on the run down to the final fence, only to suddenly begin to look tired.
In a sensational finish, First Lieutenant came through to head Flemenstar in the last 50 yards before himself being collared in the last stride by the enigmatic Tidal Bay who got up to score by a head. Flemenstar was just half-a-length away in third, and Sir Des Champs, finishing faster than anything having been behind on the home turn, only a short-head further back in fourth.
Tidal Bay and First Lieutenant will not be on duty at Leopardstown again, but Flemenstar will lock horns once more with the Willie Mullins-trained Sir Des Champs, winner of last season’s Jewson Novices Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and fancied to go well back at the Prestbury track in the Gold Cup itself, for which he is currently the 5/1 ante-post second favourite. Flemenstar is a 12/1 chance for that race, but is 5/1 market leader for the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase a day earlier, over five furlongs less.