On Sunday, at Punchestown in Ireland, the John Durkan Memorial Chase saw Flemenstar beat Sir Des Champs, much to the delight of many locals. It was the first defeat for Sir Des Champs who, in my opinion, looked in need of the run – his first of the season. Flemenstar remains unbeaten. Something had to give today.
Sir Des Champs remains a horse I like the look of and I certainly would not rule that one out from winning next time out nor be too quick to rule out a big run at the Cheltenham festival. He is owned by the giant business that is the Gigginstown House Stud, and racehorse owner Michael O’Leary of Ryanair fame, (owner of Sir Des Champs)
Flemenstar is owned by builder Stephen Curran and trained by Peter Casey, a man who used to keep cattle. He’s trained other horses, but nothing to compare with Flemenstar whose owner has turned down several offers to buy him.
Flemenstar is, according to Casey, “the best horse we have ever had and are likely to ever have.” Casey is a character. He became famous on TV and on YouTube when he reacted to a previous win by Flemenstar. Not just any win, but his first Grade 1 race win as a trainer.
Tracy Piggott, reporting for Irish station RTE, put a microphone in front of the ruddy faced Casey and asked how he felt. Live on air came the reply: “Jaysus, I can’t believe it. I’m going to have fecking sex tonight and everything.”
It was a classic moment and proved to all just how much having a Grade 1 winner can mean to one of the less high profile, but hard working trainers.
Sunday was a big test for Flemenstar.
Sir Des Champs won the Jewson Novices’ Chase at the last Cheltenham festival and impressed many racing onlookers. To beat him as comfortably as he did was itself eyecatching.
Peter Casey said after the race that the Gold Cup is the intended target for his Flemenstar. He said: “The Gold Cup is still the aim as he’s a lot more relaxed now and I have no worries about him getting the trip. Whatever happens next, I really cannot believe we have a horse like him.”
The passion for racing in Ireland is historic. They love the sport there. Some of my favourite days at the races have been spent at courses in the land of my father – Ireland.
I am always struck by how racing in Ireland attracts more serious racegoers.
It is ironic that, in a land famed for its consumption of alcohol, I see far fewer crowds of drunk youngsters at racecourses across Ireland than I see up and down the UK. In Ireland more people go to see the racing, and not simply to get pissed.
Though many will now be drinking and toasting Flemenstar. But not for teetotal Peter Casey. He says: “I have never had a drink in my life. If I’m in some box at a racecourse they often keep bringing me wine and I just keep pouring it in the flowerpots.”
He will though be minding his language despite his excitement at Flemenstar winning on Sunday. He has been warned by his wife not to repeat this previous post race interview.