All-the-way star dazzles
Flemenstar jumped to second-favouritism for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with a scintillating performance at Punchestown.
Jockey Andrew Lynch set out to make every post a winning one and the tactics worked a treat as Peter Casey's seven-year-old jumped for fun at the head of affairs in the John Durkan Memorial Chase.
Sir Des Champs, unbeaten since joining Willie Mullins, including two wins at the Cheltenham Festival, was ridden from some way out by Davy Russell but had no answer to Flemenstar's pace rounding the turn for home.
Last year's winner Rubi Light was well beaten back in third.
Effervescent trainer Casey had stated before the race that his performance in this contest would dictate his future plan.
Racing over two and a half miles against a genuine Gold Cup contender, he certainly was not stopping on crossing the line.
Yet again his jumping was foot-perfect as the even-money favourite took lengths out of Sir Des Champs down the back straight, although the effort of the runner-up offered plenty of encouragement for his supporters on what was his seasonal return.
Coral cut Flemenstar to 5-1 for Cheltenham (from 8-1) behind Bobs Worth.
Casey said: "I'm delighted with that, and he's still not ready!
"He'll go to Leopardstown at Christmas and will get three miles. I've never had any doubt about him getting three miles.
"We'll have to see how he comes out of this race first. He'll be entered for the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase as well as the Lexus.
"I don't want to get to the bottom of him at this stage and, if we feel it's best for the horse, he could go for the two-mile race at Christmas.
"The Gold Cup is still the plan long term."
Lynch said: "He was good, he did it well.
"It wasn't ideal making it but none of the other two wanted to go on. I just thought he'd be better off being in front than hacking in behind.
"With Bog Warrior not running I thought Rubi Light might have gone on as he's just a big galloper but I didn't mind making it.
"He didn't seem to be stopping at the finish so hopefully we'll find out more over Christmas (over three miles)."
Stan James also cut Flemenstar to 5-1 from 8-1 for the Gold Cup while easing Sir Des Champs to 5-1 from 6-1 for the same race.
Spokesman Joseph Burke said: "Flemenstar has always promised to be a star and he proved that he is indeed the real deal in beating Sir Des Champs.
"Both horses are likely to meet again in the Lexus over an extra half a mile and it will be interesting to see what happens, but the advantage is now with Flemenstar.
"Bobs Worth remains the 4-1 favourite for the Gold Cup in what is shaping up to be one of the most competitive renewals in many years."