PEter Casey has confirmed that Flemenstar is on target for a first stab at three miles in tomorrow week's Lexus Chase when he's likely to face a stern test from John 'Shark' Hanlon's Hidden Cyclone.
Hanlon is leaning towards the Leopardstown showpiece although he has also mentioned next month's Argento Chase at Cheltenham as an alernative.
It was at the Foxrock venue's Christmas fixture last year that Halon's talented seven-year-old made a successful fencing debut, before being beaten into third there behind Sir Des Champs on his only other outing last term.
Hidden Cyclone has returned this season to post two straightforward victories in testing going at Naas and Gowran Park and a preference for soft ground has prompted Hanlon to factor the Prestbury Park Grade Two on January 26 into his calculations.
"The only other race I'm thinking of running him in is the trial at Cheltenham in January," Hanlon said of his stable star, which has yet to run outside of Ireland. "But with the rain over the past couple of days, I'd say he'll definitely be going for the Lexus."
A total of eight millimetres was reported to have fallen at Leopardstown on Tuesday night, easing the going to yielding to soft, soft in places, and the forecast remains unsettled. In all, 12 were left in the showpiece three-mile Grade One, with Nicky Henderson's Hennessy Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth and Charles Byrnes' long-absent Weapons Amnesty – both dual Cheltenham Festival winners – among those scratched, though Weapons Amnesty is also in the woodiesdiy.com Christmas Hurdle.
Flemenstar, 7/4 ante-post favourite for the Lexus, reaffirmed his status as thecountry's most exciting chaser with a superb victory over two and a half miles in Punchestown's John Durkan Memorial Chase earlier this month. His Tubbertown-based handler has frequently said that he fully expects the former point-to-pointer to stay at least three miles, though he is anxious to get the next assignment out of the way before making further plans.
"The (Cheltenham) Gold Cup is the main objective," Casey admitted of his bold-jumping triple Grade One winner. "I don't know if he'll run again or go straight to Cheltenham. Since the John Durkan Memorial, there has been no bother. He will do the last of his work on Sunday at the Curragh."
Sir Des Champs, outpointed by Flemenstar on his seasonal bow at Punchestown, no longer has the option of dropping in trip for the Dial-A-Bet Chase after Willie Mullins removed him from Thursday's two-miler. Henry de Bromhead has left Sizing Europe in both, but testing ground would likely ensure his place in the shorter race.
Bog Warrior, China Rock, First Lieutenant, Pandorama and Quito De La Roque are others that might form part of the home defence in the Lexus, while Tidal Bay and Midnight Chase could travel from England. Tidal Bay's trainer Paul Nicholls is also responsible for Edgardo Sol, the only British entry among nine in the Dial-A-Bet.
Dermot Weld, meanwhile, has said Waaheb will take its chance in Thursday's Future Champions Novice Hurdle. However, he cautioned that the Fairyhouse hurdle winner is a "good ground horse who is pretty inexperienced".