Flemenstar's Fortria mission
A year after annihilating three-time winner Big Zeb in the Boylesports.com Fortria Chase while in the care of Peter Casey, Flemenstar is on schedule to make his debut for Tony Martin in the same two-mile Grade Two at Navan this Sunday.
In 2012, the Flemensfirth gelding went on to claim his third Grade One when slamming the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Sir Des Champs in the John Durkan Chase.
He failed to add to his seven-race unbeaten stretch thereafter, running out of stamina when placed in the Lexus Chase and Hennessy Gold Cup, before trailing home in third behind Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card at Aintree.
Despite Flemenstar undergoing surgery to correct his breathing, his owner Stephen Curran opted not to send him back to Casey's modest Co Dublin stable. Martin instead got the nod, so Sunday's feature will give him an opportunity to properly assess his exciting new recruit.
"I got him six weeks ago," the Summerhill handler said of the eight-year-old. "He has done everything well – he has schooled well and galloped well. You don't learn an awful lot about them in six weeks, but I am looking forward to getting him started. I have no plans after Navan."
There are 10 entries in total for the €40,000 feature, including Willie Mullins' duo Arvika Ligeonniere and Sanctuaire. Arvika Ligeonniere is cut from a similar cloth to Flemenstar, exuberant over his fences and especially effective in testing ground at up to two and a half miles.
Sanctuaire, a £170,000 acquisition for leading owner Rich Ricci, is a less imposing and slightly temperamental trail-blazer. His best form for Paul Nicholls was on good ground, so Sunday's going – yielding to soft, soft in places with more rain forecast – mightn't necessarily be to his advantage were he to make his bow for Mullins.
Mouse Morris' Rule The World is the standout entry among 11 for the card's other Grade Two, the two-and-a-half-mile Lismullen Hurdle.
Mick Winters, meanwhile, has suggested a return visit to Cheltenham in March remains on the agenda for last year's Galway hurdle hero Rebel Fitz after the classy eight-year-old's odds-on defeat at the Cotswold track last month.
"I just don't think he fired 100pc over there," Winters said of his bad traveller's carefully choreographed trial venture. "Every year at this time he seems to get beaten, so we give him a break and he comes back as good as ever.
"We'll look to get a run into him in late January and then, if we decide to go to Cheltenham, we'd maybe take him over two weeks beforehand and give him a few days out in the field to settle in. He'd go for the Jewson if he does travel."
Jim Bolger and David Wachman were both due to saddle runners at Maisons-Laffitte in France yesterday, but their respective travelling parties found themselves in limbo after an industrial dispute saw the meeting abandoned.
Bolger's Korba and Caesaria and Wachman's Hidden Oasis were set to contest Group races at the Parisian track and Bolger's representative Ger Flynn suggested their duo could stay on if the fixture is rescheduled elsewhere.