Brilliant Flemenstar flies to John Durkan victory
Report: Punchestown, Sunday
John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase (Grade 1) 5yo+, 2m4f
FLEMENSTAR edged closer to superstardom on Sunday as he breezily dismissed the challenge of the previously unbeaten Sir Des Champs at Punchestown.
Bookmakers cut the Peter Casey-trained six-year-old for Betfred Gold Cup glory following this hugely impressive victory, which was his seventh consecutive win.
Coral and BetVictor both went 5-1 (from 8), while William Hill went 7-1 (from 8) and 5-1 (from 6) for the Ryanair, although Casey said the Gold Cup was his primary target.
He will have no shortage of supporters wherever he races.
In Sir Des Champs, a dual Festival winner, Flemenstar faced perhaps his sternest examination yet. It was nigh on impossible not be taken with the way he passed it.
Sent off evens-favourite, Flemenstar was taken to the front by jockey Andrew Lynch, with Rubi Light in second and Sir Des Champs playing rearguard in the trio's column.
He appeared to relish the freedom front-running duties afforded him, running with ears pricked and head held high. He seems an intelligent and observant horse, traits which manifest themselves in an economical jumping style.
Yet he also has a mighty engine. Rubi Light was totally out-classed and was defeated long before the real business of this race began, but Sir Des Champs stayed in touch to make the finish interesting.
Andrew Lynch: "He's done it well."PICTURE: Getty
He tackled Flemenstar at the entrance to the straight but as soon as Andrew Lynch let his mount stretch out the race was as good as over. The pair sealed the victory with a nimble leap over the last.
Peter Casey said: "I'm absolutely delighted, he's still not fully fit. He'll probably go to Leopardstown for the Lexus if that doesn't come too soon. The Gold Cup is still the aim as he's a lot more relaxed now and I have no worries about him getting the trip."
Lynch added: "He's done it well, it wasn't ideal being in front the whole way but neither of the other two wanted to make it and it was better to go on. I thought when Bog Warrior came out that Barry might try and make it on Rubi Light but they left it to me and he won well. He wasn't stopping at the line."
Sir Des Champs was left largely unchanged by bookmakers for the Gold Cup and his trainer Willie Mullins stated his hope that the run would bring about improvement next time out, although where that will be remains uncertain.
He said: "Watching the race at no point did I think he was going to win. He's back and he's safe and we'll go from there. He's in the Lexus and the King George but nothing's decided yet. You'd think the run would bring him on and stepping up in trip is not a concern."