The eagerly awaited return to action of Flemenstar proved to be something of an anti-climax as Felix Younger stormed to victory in Navan.
Flemenstar, a brilliant multiple winner at Graded level trailed in sixth place, almost 20 lengths behind the Willie Mullins runner in the Grade Two Webster Cup Chase.
Thought to be a possible Gold Cup horse at one time when trained by Peter Casey, Flemenstar changed stables and made a winning start under Tony Martin in the Grade Two Fortria Chase at the venue back in 2013, but subsequently developed leg trouble and was off the track since.
The vibes from the Martin yard was that the 10-year-old was just about ready to start back and that he would come on the proverbial ton for the outing, yet punters sided with Felix Younger for the tried and tested Mullins/Walsh combination.
Given a positive ride by Keith Donoghue, Flemenstar led or disputed the lead until the second last fence when his lack of a recent outing began to tell. He quickly dropped out of contention as Walsh produced Felix Younger to throw down the gauntlet.
Just a fence earlier it looked as though the son of Oscar was in trouble as Walsh began to niggle him along. However, he was soon back on the bridle and found plenty to draw away and win cleverly by three and three-quarter lengths from Argocat.
A four-time winner over fences at longer trips Felix Younger was an impressive winner over hurdles at Leopardstown a month or so ago which obviously sharpened him up. Connections were fearful that the sticky ground and the two mile as well as the two mile and a half might find him out but that never materialised and he will have an end of season target in the Two Mile Champion Chase at the Punchestown festival.
Tony Martin expressed himself as ‘pleased’ with the effort of Flemenstar, but will wait and see how he comes out of the race before making any plans as it’s a ‘one day at a time’ job with him.
Mullins ad Walsh had earlier combined to land the two mile and a furlong novice chase courtesy of Jarry D’Honneur.
A multiple scorer in his native France before opening his chasing account at Punchestown earlier in the year, he was all the rage in the betting market and went to post a cramped 30/100 chance.
Jumping from fence to fence, Jarry D’Honneur took over well before the halfway point. Although pressed briefly turning for home he quickly asserted himself and went on to score by four lengths from Toubaloo.
There was a lot to like about this display. The winner will have a further chance to display his wares at Punchestown
Recently turned professional David Mullins is a jockey in huge demand by trainers. His 5lb claim is a vital commodity and he put it to good use with a double aboard All You Need and Bog War.
All You Need set the ball rolling with a runaway victory in the opening mares maiden hurdle over two mile. A well-supported favourite, the five-year-old was always in the firing line before drawing away from the penultimate flight and landing the spoils by 15 lengths from Emily Sinico.
Showing a steady rate of improvement since the beginning of the year, All You Need has also strengthened up. Her trainer Alan Fleming is now considering moving her up in class and it will be interesting to see how she progresses from here.
Mullins joined forces with former jockey Liam Cusack later in the afternoon to capture the two mile 80-100 handicap hurdle with Bog War.
A strong market support on the strength of a nice performance at Punchestown on his most recent outing, Bog War was not rushed early on in this 21- runner contest.
He gradually crept into the race from the mile post before jumping the last in front and running on strongly to hit the wire two and a quarter lengths to the good from Cardhu. A versatile individual, the winner will be kept on the go for the Summer months with a view to winning a nice flat handicap with him.
Jim Dreaper is currently enjoying an Indian Summer and he continued his winning run by saddling Sizing Titanium to justify odds on in the two mile maiden hurdle for colts and geldings.
The imposing seven-year-old has been given plenty of time to mature and this looks like paying off. He was always in contention before hitting the front on the run to the last hurdle and, with rider Johnny Burke keeping him up to his work, beat The Tractor Man by a length and threeparts.
Whatever he does over hurdles will be a bonus according to Dreaper as chasing is his game. He could make the transition around Listowel time as he is considered to be a good ground animal.