Peter Casey’s stable star, ridden by regular partner Andrew Lynch, jumped past front-running Rathlin three fences from home and strode clear to register his fifth and most significant success over fences, to the delight of his band of enthusiastic supporters in a crowd of 7,682 (down from 7,853 last year).
Flemenstar is now as low as 8/1 (from 20), with Ladbrokes, for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, while Boylesports offer 12/1 (from 16).
Amid now familiar scenes of jubilation after a Flemenstar victory, trainer Casey declared: “It’s unreal for a little man like me to have a horse like this. He’s a right one. Thank God, the owner (Stephen Curran) didn’t sell him.”
Casey added: ‘They did a great job with the ground here. My two sons and the owner walked the course during the week and were happy to run the horse.
“Both of the lads, Peter and Francis, were very confident. Francis told me he’d destroy the opposition. How right he was!
“He was entered for Punchestown, in case anything happened to him here. But the plan has always been to head for the field after today.”
Later, Francis Casey explained: “Andrew (Lynch) said he wouldn’t want the ground an quicker. I just hope he’s okay in the morning.”
And, when asked about plans for next season, when the Cheltenham Gold Cup will be his long-term target, Francis suggested that the seven-year-old is likely to start next season over two and a half miles before tackling three miles, and further.
Punchestown’s John Durkan Memorial Chase was suggested as a likely starting point for Flemenstar, next December.
The Jessica Harrington-trained Jenari proved a facile winner of the Grade 2 Coolmore N.H.Sires Ask & Getaway Novice Hurdle, highlight of the supporting card, forging clear to slam Bridgets Pet by almost four lengths and provide the second leg of a double for Tony McCoy and owner J P McManus.
A delighted Harrington explained: ‘He had a good run in a handicap the last day and he’s been crying out for two and a half miles. He’s a genuine two-and-a-half miler and needs good ground. So everything was right for him today.”
Harrington earmarked the Grade 1, two and a half mile novice hurdle at the Punchestown Festival as Jenari’s next assignment. But the five-year-old Milan gelding has not been entered for the event.
The McCoy/McManus double had been initiated in the opening Fairyhouse Vets Promoting Equine Health when Simon Gray, a three-time winner on the flat for Richard Hannon and now with Dessie Hughes, triumphed, despite breaking down in the closing stages.
Simon Gray, the 9/4 favourite, took command between the last two flights and ran on strongly, despite his injury, to beat Back To Balloo by three and a quarter lengths.
“I bought him two years ago. He has broken down before and he’s gone again,” commented Hughes. “It’s all holidays for him - three runs in two years. I though he’d be a nice horse for Galway. But we’ll just have to try and get him back for next year.”
Jenari’s half-brother Jetson made a valiant effort to defy joint top-weight in the INH Stallion Owners Novice Handicap Hurdle Series Final but, ultimately, had to give best to 20/1 shot Archie Meade, trained by Malachy Hassett and ridden by Danny Howard.
“He’s a funny horse and was off the bridle, and back on it,” said the winning rider. “The better ground helped, compared to his run at Clonmel, where it was sticky. He missed the last, but picked up again. He’s all heart.”
The Hassett/Howard combination looked set to complete an unlikely double with 25/1 shot Lough Donnell Mist in the Russell Restaurant Navan Novice Handicap Hurdle when he shot clear going to the second last.
But Eightybarrackstreet, ridden for Tommy Cooper by Barry Geraghty, pounced late, edging ahead on the run-in to score by a length and a quarter prompting Cooper to comment: ‘He’s a bit quirky but runs well fresh. The cheekpieces help him. He’s crying out fro fences and that’s what he’ll do over the summer, after he runs in another handicap hurdle at Punchestown. Really fast ground is what he wants.”