Monks' books Festival ticket
NOEL MEADE'S Monksland took the feature Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas yesterday, booking his ticket for the Cheltenham Festival in the process and justifying the faith of his trainer.
Immediately afterwards, Meade said: "That went according to plan and I thought he would win, to be honest."
Monksland was third favourite in the betting behind the leading pair of Dedigout and Lyreen Legend, but the Navan maiden hurdle and Down Royal bumper winner continued on the upward curve by claiming the Grade Two in fine style.
"He was involved in a serious piece of work at Fairyhouse behind Tony Martin's Bog Warrior. Monksland was second and Paul (Carberry) felt he had a good bit up his sleeve," added Meade.
The trainer is now excited by the prospect of bringing the five-year-old to Cheltenham and suggested that yesterday's win might even be his last effort before the March event.
"He has done everything right and looks good enough to go for the two-mile-five-furlong novice (Neptune Investments) at Cheltenham," continued Meade.
"I'm not sure if we will run again before then. He probably won't as he isn't a horse that takes a lot of work. I'm not saying he definitely won't (run), but he could go straight there."
Yesterday's ground at Naas was said to be exceptionally testing and although that was a slight concern, Meade said: "He worked very well on Tuesday on ground that was very soft, but I think he should handle better ground."
With a now unbeaten record on the track, the 25/1 that Paddy Power installed him for the Neptune Investments Novices' Hurdle is likely to prove popular with many as he's unlikely to be anything near that price on the day.
"One of him comes around once in a lifetime," were trainer Peter Casey's final words as he departed from the pressroom after Flemenstar had won the EBF Novice Chase.
The exciting seven-year-old was overtaken at the head of the market by Willie Mullins' Lambro, who had previously beaten him over hurdles, but as the pair jumped the last, it was Flemenstar who dug the deepest to win by three and a half lengths.
Casey, looking ahead to the Arkle at the end of the month, enthused: "He'll go to Leopardstown now.
"The ground was desperate and he probably didn't like it, he's not even there yet, there's more to come from him I'd say."
Flemenstar went into yesterdays race on the back of an easy win at Navan, and prior to that he had followed home Tony Martin's exciting novice Bog Warrior -- and, incidentally, Martin had an update on Bog Warrior following his fall at Leopardstown over Christmas.
"It took him a while to come out of it," said Martin. "Hopefully he'll come out of it now the right way. I have been quite happy with him on Sunday morning and he's been out all the time and in gentle exercise at the moment."
The Meath-based trainer added: "The Arkle may come a little too quick, it was a precaution that we stuck him in the entries last week, but I'm quite happy with him.
"Everyday he's progressed the right way and we're very happy with the way he's going at the moment. We'd just like to give him plenty of time, I don't want to rush him back."
Naas also hosted the first four-year-old bumper of the new year, and that couldn't have been won any easier by the Willie Mullins-trained Un Atout.
Dermot Weld's well-regarded Silver Concorde was taken out by the trainer due to the testing ground, but Un Atout would have taken a hell of a lot of beating regardless, as he had it won by the last to complete a 24-length margin.
Mullins, who was completing a double on the day having won the maiden hurdle with Hats And Heels, said after the bumper: "We'll try and win another bumper with him now, maybe two, before we put him away.
"He jumps well at home and we are looking forward to jumping him next season."
Paddy Power installed Un Atout at 16/1 for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, however, as, impressive as he was, owners Gigginstown Stud never appear overly keen on sending runners to that race, so punters should probably bare that in mind.