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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Tall order for Punchestown longshots but there is always hope

Flemenstar: a classy contender
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You have to be very careful at the races. A friend of mine made the mistake of going racing with a wobbly tooth. He went to the toilet and to his alarm saw that his tooth had fallen into the urinal and was drifting towards the drain.

Luckily he was quick enough to retrieve it, although he didn’t replace it in his mouth immediately.

The odds of that happening were very long, even longer than a successful double at Punchestown on Flemenstar and Dell Oro on Wednesday.

It would be lovely to see Flemenstar, who has featured so often in high-class chases, win the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup (5.30) and nice to see Dell Oro make trainer Gary Moore and owner Galloping On The South Downs Partnership’s day by winning the Racing Post Champion bumper (6.05). Sadly, it looks like there will need to be a spate of non-runners for that to happen.

Owner Stephen Curran and regular jockey Anthony Lynch have had a wonderful time with Flemenstar, now 12. He’s been a terrific horse, the winner of four Grade 1 chases and only out of the first three five times in 21 runs over fences.

He’s won more than £340,000, mainly when trained by Peter Casey but latterly for Tony Martin and then for Stephen’s son, Anthony Curran. Flemenstar is the reason Anthony took out a licence and is the only horse he’s run from his County Meath stable, so Wednesday’s race means a lot.

Flemenstar has rarely raced on ground that isn’t yielding or softer – the Currans will be hoping for rain – but although he has never won beyond two and a half miles, he has twice run well in Grade 1 chases over three miles at Leopardstown.

Flemenstar can be expected to improve from his return run at Fairyhouse earlier this month after a year off. Even so, taking on a select field that includes the winner of this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup (Sizing John), the winner of the 2015 Gold Cup (Coneygree) and the runner-up in 2015 and 2016 and close fourth this year (Djakadam), will be beyond Flemenstar.

It’s a fascinating race, not least because Djakadam travelled so well at Cheltenham until his stamina failed him. With his achievements compiled largely over much shorter trips, Willie Mullins’ candidate has a better chance over Punchestown’s shorter Gold Cup trip.

When a horse has run only once in a bumper and won, as Dell Oro has, at Fontwell last month, the sky is the limit until it falls in.

Who knows how good Dell Oro will prove to be? Let’s hope he’s very good because he will need to be to overcome the inevitably strong opposition in the champion bumper which includes Fayonagh, winner of the Cheltenham equivalent. Good luck.

Fayonagh (red cap): landing the Cheltenham Champion Bumper

Epsom returns, although for the elderly the sight of the Great Metropolitan Handicap (3.15) brings back memories of the days when, uniquely, it was run over two and a quarter miles, partly the wrong way up the track and partly across the Downs. Happy days.

When a horse has run only once in a bumper and won the sky is the limit until it falls in
E.W. Terms
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