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Casey craves a Gold 'Star

WHEN someone starts a chat with "What the f**k do you want now, ya hoor ya?" you'd think you were on a hiding to nothing.

"YIZ f**ckers, ye'll be all writing about him in the Herald and everythin' now."

But when it comes to Dublin's most colourful horse trainer, Peter Casey, you couldn't have been granted a more affectionate welcome.

Of course, on the eve of the weekend that one of Ireland's leading Gold Cup contenders is set to make his seasonal debut in Navan, Casey knew well what I wanted, and he was quite happy to sit back and relax for a few minutes to talk about Flemenstar.

It was only a few minutes, though, as Casey, who had "a heap of work to do", doesn't relax for too long.

There are those around him that would prefer to see him taking it a lot easier than he actually does, but that's not him.

He has devilment to stir, but more importantly an operation to oversee and the main project of that operation happens to be one of the best National Hunt chasers on the land.

Come March, a lot of people will be hoping he's the best chaser of them all as the Cheltenham Gold Cup remains the out-and-out target.

Sunday's Fortria Chase at Navan will be run over two miles and is again set to be the starting point for former Champion Chase winner Big Zeb, who will be looking to win the race for a fourth time.

For the second season in a row, the County Meath track will also be the starting point for Flemenstar, of whom Casey said: "He's grand now, I'm delighted with him. I hope he runs well. He's after doing a few bits of work now and everything's gone grand. But Sunday is not the only day, d'ya know what I mean? He's only starting off."

It will be the John Durkan at Punchestown when the real Flemenstar will return, fully wound up and ready to take all before him and then future plans will be discussed between owner Stephen Curran and Casey, along with his son, Frances, who assists in the training. "He was on the Curragh this week and he jumped a few fences and he's grand," says Casey. "He'll run on Sunday, but he'll come on for it. We'll have to see how it goes."

Last season, on his debut over fences, Flemenstar had to settle for second behind Bog Warrior, form he later reversed before the season was out.

"Last year he was starting off against novices. It was different than what he's starting off against this Sunday, but there will be only five or six in it, I'd say. He was beat in Navan last year but he improved from it."

Of course, Casey made all the headlines himself last year after Flemenstar won the Grade One Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle at Leopardstown and in an interview with Tracey Piggott, live on RTE, he revealed how he'd be celebrating: "I'm going to have sex tonight and everything."

The publicity that followed was "f**kin' brilliant", although it has meant that his loyal wife Junie "is afraid of her life to go to the races now!"

Of the new found fame, he added; "Ah sure, wasn't it f**kin' great? I got to meet all them models and get me picture taken and everything.

"I was delighted with it. Tracey Piggot was brilliant but she is afraid of her life of me now ever since as well!

"But sure no matter what people I talk to now, they said I lifted the country for a fortnight."

Mad

When I asked, "How are you keeping yourself?" the reply from Casey was: "I'm grand, only for the f**ckers around me. Do you hear them here telling me what to do, they're driving me mad!"

Those around him are sons Frances, Peter and Oliver, plus daughter Alison, who all pitch in to keep the show on the road, but their father admitted: "I didn't want them to have anything to do with horses at all. It's terrible hard to make money."

For all his 'giving out' about those around him, though, the proud father did admit that they are "rare ones" -- although I don't think he wanted that printed. Sorry, Peter.

For most trainers, Cheltenham is the dream, and with Flemenstar it is close to reality. Regarding that prospect, the Stamullen trainer said: "I'd say I'd get an extra five or ten years out of life. It would be great, it would be f**ckin' great. I dunno, ta f**k, though. Ya know, these things. They say it will never happen? I hope it does."

If you haven't realised already, Peter Casey isn't shy in telling someone his opinion and last year he cornered members of the racing press who didn't put their faith in his stable star.

"They kept writing him off and he wouldn't handle this ground and he wouldn't handle that and he wouldn't do this and he wouldn't stay... And it's going to be the same this year, I suppose. Small f**ckin' trainer sure that's it isn't it? I see he has a half-brother in England that stays three miles, though.

"With Flemenstar's breeding, he should stay and he's a lovely big horse, I always liked him from the day he came here first. Jesus, I loved him."

It's four or five years since Casey himself has made the journey to the Cotswolds, having attended for 30 years, but just the mere mention of the month of March and he sparks to life: "Ah Jaysus, wouldn't it be great (to win at Cheltenham), wouldn't it be f**ckin' brilliant. I'd have him everywhere after it. There'll be a bus leaving here for Cheltenham, they'll all want to go even those hoors from Meath."

Keeping his age to himself, he did admit that Lester Piggott, who celebrated his 77th birthday this week, "is nearly the same as myself", and added: "Lester, Mick O'Dwyer and myself - three rare ones, wha'?"

Although holding an address in Stamullen, may God help the man who accuses Casey of being from County Meath.

He is Dublin, through and through, and proud of it. His love for Dublin GAA is well known and on that subject he said: "They've got rid of a good few of them older lads, but they've brought in about six young lads - minors and that - and I'm telling you now they're right ones."

Historic

Looking ahead to 2013, he is hopeful of the Dubs completing a historic double and bringing both the Liam MacCarthy and Sam Maguire back to the capital, and is extremely confident for the hurlers.

"This (2013) is the year for the hurlers, I'm tellin' ya's. They made a b****cks of it this year and next year will be different. I'm telling ya one thing, they have some players up there in the football and the hurling. They'll go close."

But when asked the vital question of what will go closer -- the Dublin hurlers or Flemenstar in the Gold Cup, there was only one answer: "Oh bejaysus Flemenstar. If we get that hoor to the Gold Cup wouldn't it be great?"

Too often it is said that "it couldn't happen to a nicer man", but should Flemenstar win the Gold Cup that saying would never be more fitting.

An exciting season gets underway on Sunday.


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