Cheltenham Festival running plans continue to take shape and it’s highly likely that we will know which Irish horses are bound for the Gold Cup at the weekend. Leopardstown plays host to the Hennessy Gold Cup, with Flemenstar, Sir Des Champs and Bog Warrior the notables among the eight declared runners.
It’s not certain Bog Warrior will take his chance, as he has been transformed since switched to hurdles following a fall over the larger obstacles at the start of the season. Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs, though, will line up and put their credentials on the line.
Sir Des Champs seems nailed on to go for the Gold Cup, as his stamina looks assured. He was a running on fourth in the Lexus Chase and many will fancy him to turn the tables on Flemenstar.
The jury is still out with regard to Flemenstar’s stamina. He looked a superstar last term and reinforced that opinion when slamming Big Zeb on his return to action. He was upped in trip to three miles in the Lexus and travelled like the best horse in the race, had his rivals beaten turning in but wavered after the last and was run down by Tidal Bay.
Connections are convinced he stays three miles and they may allow him to go from the front on Saturday to take advantage of his brilliant jumping. He is the joint favourite for the Hennessy at 5/4 with Sir Des Champs and may well win, which would hand connections a dilemma.
The Ryanair Chase, over two miles, five furlongs, looks tailor made for Flemenstar but they may elect to go for Gold – but that race is over three and a quarter miles and the suspicion is that in a championship test over that distance he may not get up the Cheltenham hill.