A faultless, front-running display by Flemenstar in the Grade 2 Irish Form Book Fortria Chase proved the highlight of yesterday’s action in Navan.
Peter Casey’s stable star, successful twice at Grade 1 level last season, jumped impeccably for regular partner Andrew Lynch and, when shaken up, stretched clear to beat classy veteran Big Zeb (seeking a fourth consecutive win in the Fortria) readily, by seven lengths.
“When he’s fit, he’ll be good,” stated a relieved Peter Casey. “But he has a long way to go. He’s only about 80% fit today and Andrew said he blew up. He’s a stronger horse this year.”
Casey admitted: “I’m not thinking about him as much as last year and there’s no use telling Andrew what to do with him. He knows him well.”
Casey confirmed that the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown (on December 9) will be Flemenstar’s next assignment, before tackling three miles.
Boylesports cut Flemenstar to 8/1 (from 10) for the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup while Stan James took an opposition view, pushing him out to 10/1 (from 8).
Flemenstar was the second leg of a double for Andrew Lynch, who had partnered the Henry de Bromhead-trained Sizing Rio to an all-the-way win in the Grade 3 For Auction Novice Hurdle.
Sizing Rio, described by his trainer as “a big, raw four-year-old,” knuckled down when tackled on the run-in to beat Ted Veale by a length and a half.
De Bromhead said: “He did it the hard way. Andrew said he’s still very green and that it was hard to get him around the bends. He’s a horse for the future and we’ll probably keep him for Leopardstown at Christmas.”
The Grade 2 Lismullin Hurdle produced a huge shock as hot-pot Voler La Vedette, sent off 1/7 to complete back-to-back wins in the race, was turned over by 25/1 shot Whatuthink, enterprisingly ridden by Tom Doyle to make all and beat Andrew Lynch’s mount by four-and-a-quarter lengths.
Ridden with customary restraint at the back of the six-runner field, Voler La Vedette made mistakes at the third and sixth flights but travelled strongly into the race on the home turn, as Doyle got to work on the leader.
And, after Whatuthink missed the second last, Colm Murphy’s mare had every chance of picking up the front-runner.
But Whatuthink responded to Doyle’s driving and, having pinged the last, stayed on stoutly to beat the favourite convincingly.
Winning owner-trainer Oliver McKiernan said: “He’s always had the ability, but it’s a case of whether he’s on his day. He lost his confidence over fences, so we decided to stick to hurdling and this is a bonus. I suppose he had a little bit of fitness ahead of the others. He travels, stays and loves that ground so the plan was to make plenty of use of him.”
McKiernan nominated the Grade 2 Christmas Hurdle over three miles at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting as Whatuthink’s next target while Voler La Vedette’s rider Andrew Lynch reported that the mare “ran flat and never travelled”.
Noel Meade declared: “That was the perfect ride,” after Paul Carberry produced 5/4 favourite Dylan Ross with a perfectly-timed challenge to beat Lord Windermere in the beginners chase, adding: “I asked Paul what the plan was and he told me ‘I’ll be late’. This horse is very athletic and jumps great. He’s like a rubber-ball. Paul say he’d prefer better ground. He’ll stick to two miles and will be entered for the Grade 1 at Leopardstown at Christmas.”
Ted Walsh introduced Rory O’Moore’s full-brother Champagne James to land the bumper, under a well-judged ride by Robbie McNamara, at the expense of another well-regarded debutant Blackmail
“He’s a nice horse, a horse for the future,” said Walsh, “He’s only four and we might wait for a winners bumper in the spring before he goes hurdling. He got a great ride from Robbie, as fine an amateur as ever threw a leg across a horse.”
The in-form partnership of Dessie Hughes and Bryan Cooper proved successful with hurdling debutant Our Conor, an impressive odds-on winner of the opening Follow Navan On Facebook 3-Y-0 Maiden Hurdle.
A dual winner on the flat, Our Conor jumped with enthusiasm and, tackled by Casual Creeper between the last two flights, soon asserted to score by eight-and-a-half lengths, prompting Hughes to comment: “This is what he was bought for. His flat form was good and he has schooled well from day one. He’s a good, swift jumper and Bryan was very impressed.”
Our Conor, which received quotes varying from 33/1 (Boylesports) to 20/1 (Stan James) for the 2013 JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, will now be aimed at the Grade 2 juvenile hurdle at Leopardstown on St. Stephen’s Day.
Cooper completed a double when Ballyfinboy, owned and trained by Jimmy Finn, soon poached a clear lead in the St. Johann Ski resort Tirol Austria Handicap Hurdle and, although tiring in the closing stages, held the Paul Carberry-ridden Tarquinius by a neck.
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