FLEMENSTAR is "very unlikely" to run at the Cheltenham Festival next month, according to Peter Casey, after his stable was found to have a lung infection.
The eight-year-old, which finished second to Sir Des Champs in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Saturday, was diagnosed with the problem yesterday and is now likely to be aimed at Aintree in April.
"He'll be out for two to three weeks," said Casey. "It's a bad lung infection. The vets found he had it today. He's going to be all right in the long term, but I would say Cheltenham is very unlikely now.
"The jockey (Andrew Lynch) thought something was wrong on Saturday and it looks like he was right. We'll probably look at Aintree now."
The news is a bad blow to ante-post punters who backed Flemenstar for the two-mile Champion Chase in the wake of his second defeat over three miles at Leopardstown.
Meanwhile, as the weather continues to cause problems on both sides of the Irish Sea, trainer Mick Winters will be monitoring forecasts ahead of Saturday's Gowran Park trials card,
Only yesterday, Saturday's scheduled North Down point-to-point at Kirkstown was cancelled due to waterlogging, so it remains to be seen if the Kilkenny venue can withstand the elements. Winters is hoping to run Rebel Fitz and Missunited in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran and reports both horses in fine shape after their mid-season break, but he will not risk them on testing conditions.
"The weather forecast doesn't look too good. We had desperate rain on Sunday night so the ground might come very heavy," said Winters. "Both horses are in great order, they are fit and healthy, but I wouldn't want to pulverise them.
"We'd love to get a run into them and there are other races to think about. There's a race at Mallow (Cork) and the owners might want to go to Cheltenham.
"If the going's bad we won't run them but if they put Gowran off for a week we might have another look."
Four of the 12 entries for this Grade Two contest over two miles are from the Willie Mullins stable – Midnight Game, So Young, Thousand Stars and Zaidpour.
The list is completed by Arnaud, Noble Prince, De Valira, Fosters Cross, Hisaabaat and Rory O'Moore.
Robbie Hennessy is keeping his fingers crossed that the weather will improve as his Rubi Light will be trying to win the card's Red Mills Chase for the third successive year.
Hennessy is looking forward to running the eight-year-old in the Grade Two contest over two-and-a-half miles ahead of going for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham. Rubi Light has finished third and fifth in the last two Ryanairs. "I've taken him out of the Queen Mother at Cheltenham and he'll go for the Ryanair again," said the Meath handler.
"First it's the Red Mills Chase at Gowran. He's won it the last two years. Hopefully the racing will go ahead on Saturday. He worked the other day on the Curragh – Andrew Lynch rode him – and we're very happy with him."
Champion trainer Mullins is responsible for three of the 12 possibles – his two main Grand National hopes Prince De Beauchene and On His Own as well as Apt Approach.
Ted Walsh has his two Aintree prospects, Seabass and Colbert Station, in the list. Gordon Elliott is also double-handed with Roi Du Mee and Chicago Grey, while the other entries are Foildubh, Hidden Cyclone, Rathlin and Realt Dubh.
At Catterick yesterday, Larne trainer Stuart Crawford continued his successful plundering of English bumper contests by sending out Legacy Gold to win her second event.
Ridden by the trainer's brother Steven, the daughter of Gold Well – which is related to the talented Mossbank – won on her debut at Sedgefield last month and she followed up by an impressive seven lengths.
Sent off the 13/8 favourite, she was held up towards the rear in the early stages before hitting the front two furlongs out and going clear.