THE BIG Easter meeting kicked off at Fairyhouse on Sunday and a new star appeared on the scene when Flemenstar turned the two mile and four Grade One Power Gold Cup into a procession.
The son of Flemensfirth has improved with every outing over fences since finishing second to Bog Warrior on his chasing debut at Navan back in November. He went on to collect the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown before routing the latter at Naas on his previous outing.
Trained by Peter Casey, the seven-year-old was the only one that punters wanted to know about and as a consequence he went to post a warm favourite. His main market rival Rathlin set a cracking gallop with Flemenstar racing in his slipstream. The pattern remained unchanged until the third last when rider Andrew Lynch kicked for home.
In a few strides the race was over as a contest, as Flemenstar winged the final two fences and won as he liked by 11 lengths. To his credit Rathlin kept going to claim second money, with False Economy finishing third a further five lengths in arrears.
Make no mistake but this was a performance right out of the top drawer. If remaining in the one piece the sky is the limit as far as the winner is concerned.
Cheltenham was not on his agenda this season as connections felt that he was not a great traveller, but Casey told me on Monday that his charge has matured and will be aimed at the next year’s festival. The Gold Cup is the obvious target and with the likes of the Willie Mullins-trained Sir Des Champs as well as First Lieutenant from the Mouse Morris stable, Ireland will have a strong hand in chasing’s blue riband.
However, Cheltenham is 11 months away. There are so many things that can go wrong in the meantime that punters would be crazy to take the current prices offered by the bookmakers.
Visiting rider Tony McCoy had several fancied mounts during the afternoon in his capacity as first jockey to owner J.P. McManus, helping himself to a double courtesy of Simon Grey and Jenari.
The German-bred Simon Grey set the ball rolling when he landed the opening two mile maiden hurdle with something in hand. A three-time winner on the level for Richard Hannon across the water, the six-year-old had shaped well at Navan on his previous outing and punters were not slow to latch on to him.
After tracking the leaders Simon Grey came for his race in the straight and jumped the last in front before going away to score readily by three and a quarter lengths from Back To Balloo.
Unfortunately for connections there was a sting in the tail as the horse broke down and will be out of action for the foreseeable future. Trainer Dessie Hughes revealed it is the second time that this has happened, but he will endeavour to get Simon Grey back to the racecourse at some juncture as he thinks that he has plenty of ability.
Jenari completed the brace for McCoy and McManus when he justified favouritism in the Grade Two Novice Hurdle over a two mile and four trip. Never too far off the leaders, the Milan gelding slipped ahead two flights out and ran all the way to the line where he had three and three-quarter lengths to spare over the Tony Mullins runner Bridgets Pet.
Winning trainer Jessica Harrington told me that her charge was crying out for this trip and good ground. Punchestown is the next port of call and further plans will be made after that.
On paper at least this was a decent contest. Bridgets Pet, which was a dual bumper winner and also has a Naas hurdle success to his credit, ran another great race. He is certainly on the upgrade and looks well capable of landing a nice pot before going on his Summer holidays.
Local trainers were on the mark at Cork also on Sunday. Eoin Doyle sent out Satu to capture the 86-116 handicap hurdle with Mikey Butler in the saddle while Kieran Purcell took the two mile and three handicap hurdle with Doctor Henry. The Willie Mullins-trained Champagne Agent finally got his head in front when taking the bumper under the trainer’s son Patrick.
Kieran Purcell must have been over the moon with the display of Paddy Pub when he finished a close up fourth in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Monday.
Always in the firing line, Paddy Pub stuck to his task well and did his share to put the village of Windgap on the racing map. He has found a new lease of life since Christmas and Purcell has placed him well. He is as game as they come and it would be nice to see him gain another bracket before he signs off for the season.