Sport Horse Racing

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Richard Forristal: Flemenstar and Lynch roll back the years for Curran

Anthony Lynch celebrates on Flemenstar after winning the Paddy Power Dial-a-Bet chase on Day 2 of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival Photo:Sportsfile
Anthony Lynch celebrates on Flemenstar after winning the Paddy Power Dial-a-Bet chase on Day 2 of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival Photo:Sportsfile
Ruby Walsh celebrates in the parade ring on Long Dog after winning the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle Photo:Sportsfile
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Flemenstar capitalised on the spectacular fall of Un De Sceaux to add his name to this season's inventory of equine comeback kings by claiming a dramatic edition of the Paddy Power-sponsored two-mile Grade One chase at Leopardstown.

It was the injury-plagued 10-year-old's first success for over two years. For Andrew Lynch, it was a first Grade One since his poignant triumph on Sizing Europe at the 2014 Punchestown Festival, an event that preceded his sacking as Alan Potts' retained rider.

Most remarkably, though, it was Flemenstar's trainer Tony Curran's first winner since he acquired a restricted licence to train the family's pride and joy at their home in Tara, Co Meath.

Flemenstar, which sports the colours of Curran's father Stephen and was having his third start of the season here, has been his only runner.

In that sense, it was a fairytale moment at the Foxrock venue, although the manner in which the 16/1 shock came about ensured that Flemenstar returned to pretty muted reception.

Outburst

The last time that the Flemensfirth gelding won at the track as an exciting, bold-jumping front-runner, it was the euphoric Arkle Chase success in January 2012 that prompted Peter Casey's colourful outburst on live television.

Casey and Tony Martin had since seen Flemenstar come and go. If they were looking on ruefully here, so will Keith Donoghue have been, as he had assumed riding duties since Curran took over. However, he missed this famous win due to injury.

"I feel sorry for Keith, because he does so much work with the horse," a shell-shocked Curran said.

"It's super, though. This is a nice way to start. We've had the horse at home since he was a yearling and it has been great to have him back in the yard. He doesn't suit a big yard but ours is quiet.

"It has been a long road back. He broke down badly and spent a year on the roads, but everyone at home has chipped in to get him back. We'll stick to soft ground and something like the Tied Cottage at Punchestown might suit next."

Ruby Walsh led on the precocious Un De Sceaux. While they had come back to the field, Un De Sceaux seemed to be travelling okay when he crashed two-out.

In that sense, it was a similar comeback to last term, when he capitulated at Thurles. With Un De Sceaux gone, Simply Ned had the €100,000 affair at his mercy crossing the last.

Flemenstar was in retreat at that stage, but Lynch somehow galvanised another burst out of his old partner to secure an unlikely triumph. It evoked memories of his own defeat over a mile further in the 2012 Lexus Chase, when he died a death after the last. This time, the boot was on the other foot.

Walsh was at a loss to explain Un De Sceaux's tumble. "I thought he was spot on at the fence but he just put in another stride and there wasn't room for one," he explained.

"It's very disappointing to leave a Grade One behind, but I'd prefer to fall at the second-last here than the second-last in a Champion Chase."

Normal service resumed when he and Mullins took the Future Champions Novices' Hurdle from the front with Rich Ricci's Long Dog. Backed from 3/1 into 9/4 favouritism, Long Dog captured his second Grade One in a race that Mullins had won just once before, with Hurricane Fly in 2008.

"We've always thought he was a good horse and the only reason he ran during the summer was because he missed last season," Mullins said of Long Dog's sixth win since July.

"He might comeback for the Deloitte but he has been busy, so I could put him away until Cheltenham, too."

Bookmakers kept Long Dog at double-figure odds for each of the three novices' hurdles at the Festival.

Aidan O'Brien has a genuine Triumph Hurdle prospect on his hands after JP McManus' Ivanovich Gorbatov (100/30) impressed in beating Mullins' Let's Dance on their hurdle bows. Ivanovich Gorbatov was introduced at odds of 12/1 for the Cheltenham showpiece, although the Ballydoyle genius deflected all the credit for the win to his son Joseph.

The former champion Flat jockey oversees operations at their home place in Owning Co Kilkenny, and his father expects him to soon acquire his own licence to formally train the jumps team.

"I last saw this fella three months ago in Ballydoyle," O'Brien quipped of Ivanovich Gorbatov. "Joseph says he was always a natural at jumping. He will get his own licence soon. The last trainers' course was in November, but he missed it because he was at the Breeders' Cup, but he will do the next one, whenever it is on."

Odds-on backers were also foiled in the other maiden, with Jonathan Burke guiding Henry De Bromhead's Supasundae (5/2) to a 13-length defeat of Silver Concorde.

Eddie Harty has saddled three horses at the festival and each has won in McManus' colours.

Following Coney Island's victory on Saturday, Copy That (11/8 fav) was a well-backed winner of yesterday's handicap hurdle for Jack Kennedy. Then Barry Geraghty was brilliantly patient in producing Minella Foru (7/1) late to foil outsider Ucello Conti in the Paddy Power Chase.

"We've been planning this for a while," Harty said after plundering the €106,800 prize.

Attendance was 17,431, an increase of 406 on the 2014 card. Bookmakers' take rose 6pc to €1,117,441.

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