Racing took place at Navan on Saturday, with a trio of young horses that could be worth following throughout the remainder of this season and in the future. Un Atout, a four-year-old trained by Willie Mullins, made his hurdling debut in what strikes as being an above-average race but he ran out a comfortable winner, jumping soundly in the main under Davy Russell before easing clear. He has plenty of scope for improvement and holds entries in a couple of Grade 1 events later this month.
Moscow Mannon, who was one of the best bumper horses around last season as he finished fourth in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, made a seamless transition to hurdles as be beat The Paparazzi Kid by two and three-quarter lengths. Accredited with a Timeform rating of 119P, Moscow Mannon looks open to significant improvement and is likely to prove suited by a greater test of stamina, with the anticipation being that he will be contesting better races sooner rather than later. The Jessice Harrington-trained Oscars Well also created a big impression on his third chase start, making amends for a fall on his previous outing as he scooted clear to win by seven lengths. The Grade 1 novice chase at Leopardstown on Boxing Day may be next on the agenda, and he could take a good deal of beating.
Moving on to Sunday, where the feature race at Cork was the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase staged over two miles. Blazing Tempo and Realt Dubh were the pair at the head of the market but they could manage only third and second respectively as the Henry de Bromhead-trained Days Hotel ran out a six length winner. The race rather fell apart around the winner, with the next pair home not ideally suited by conditions, but having said that Days Hotel is progressive an unexposed, and it would be folly to underestimate him next time.
Much of the focus in Ireland this weekend was on Punchestown, and the clash between Flemenstar and Sir des Champs in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase. Flemenstar set a sound pace in front, jumping impeccably in front and having his rivals on the stretch upon entering the straight, seeing things out well. The way he finished his race off suggested that the three miles of the Lexus Chase, which is reportedly his next target, wouldn't pose too many problems, and a repeat of this performance would be good enough to win most renewals of that race.
Unlike Flemenstar, Sir des Champs was making his seasonal return here and the Jewson Novices' Chase winner lost his unbeaten record that had stretched to some eight races. Although comfortable beaten by five lengths the lack of a recent run counted against him, seeing things out well nonetheless without being unduly punished, and it is unlikely that there would be much between the pair were they to reoppose in the Lexus.