Flemenstar ready to fly high for Martin in Fortria test
After all the drama of his offseason transfer saga, Flemenstar will be the star equine attraction when he debuts for Tony Martin at Navan tomorrow, though the presence of one AP McCoy means that he won't have the limelight entirely to himself.
In the Boylesports.com Fortria Chase, Flemenstar faces three rivals that are rated upwards of 16lbs inferior. If the flamboyant eight-year-old is in anything like the form he was when destroying three-time winner Big Zeb 12 months ago, he should have little difficulty getting his campaign off on the right foot in the €40,000 two-miler.
Of the other three runners, Days Hotel and Realt Mor are both decent soft ground operators, but they aren't in the same league as Flemenstar.
Andrew Lynch's mount may again be tested over three miles in the coming months, a venture that you couldn't say with any confidence will end any better than it did last term.
Ultimately, Flemenstar's most potent attributes – especially on soft ground – are his high-cruising speed and sensational fencing alacrity.
All things being equal, then, it's impossible to envisage him not excelling tomorrow.
The Grade Two Lismullen Hurdle should be a more meaningful contest, with McCoy on Eddie Harty's evergreen Captain Cee Bee and Martin's classy Dedigout reverting to hurdles for a first time since winning a Grade One at the 2012 Punchestown Festival.
Gordon Elliott's Mala Beach, conqueror of Defy Logic at Fairyhouse over Easter, is another to consider, but Rule The World is fancied to prevail.
Runner-up to The New One at Cheltenham in March, Mouse Morris' Gigginstown Stud-owned gelding returned from a potentially serious pelvis injury to collect with a bit of style at Naas two weeks ago. He has always appealed as a horse with a touch of real quality, so he is trusted to justify the nap vote under Davy Russell now.
The reigning domestic champion jockey could also score on the same owner's exciting Noel Meade-trained Very Wood in the Grade Three For Auction Novice Hurdle, with Donal Kinsella taking Punchestown winner King Of Oriel a leading contender for him in the handicap hurdle.
Russell's fabled British counterpart, fresh from his historic 4,000th career victory on Thursday, isn't without a squeak on Harty's Minella Foru in novice hurdle. However, Marlbrook might be McCoy's best ride.
A highly regarded Nenagh point-to-point winner for Enda Bolger and JT McNamara in January, the Beneficial gelding hosed up on his track bow for JP McManus and Colm Murphy in a Gowran Park maiden hurdle in March. He tackles the beginners' chase here, and he might be good enough to see off the likes of Minsk and Worldor.
Ruby Walsh has opted for Limerick instead of Navan. He has three decent spins there, the pick of which may be The Paparrazi Kid in the Glenview Stud Beginners' Chase.
Willie Mullins' six-year-old signed off on his novice hurdling campaign with a defeat of Rathlin in a competitive event at Punchestown, so you couldn't look beyond him against more modest opposition now that he switches to fences.