Mikael facing big questions
Mourad shock cools chance of Buck's battle
THE 2009 Cheltenham Festival winner Mikael D'Haguenet was a big disappointment at Navan yesterday when he was overturned by stable companion Mourad in the Ladbrokes Boyne Hurdle.
Trainer Willie Mullins did break his duck in the Grade Two contest as he won it for the first time, but it was the outsider of his duo who claimed the spoils under Paul Townend by a facile six-and-a-half lengths.
It had been expected that Mikael D'Haguenet would extend his unbeaten run to four and lay down some sort of marker that would suggest he could go to Cheltenham and challenge Big Buck's in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
Connections of the reigning champion staying hurdler won't be fretting on the basis of what we saw yesterday though, when Mikael D'Haguenet failed to respond to his stiffest task since finishing third behind Voler La Vedette on his seasonal debut at the same venue back in November.
Mourad does now look to have booked his ticket back to the Cotswolds, but minor honours would appear as much as he can hope for.
The seven-year-old was third in the World Hurdle last year and got to within four-and-a-half lengths of Big Buck's. However, he was 17 lengths off him just last month when they met at Cheltenham, so it remains hard to assess his chances when they meet again next month.
Mullins did feel that was the best Mourad had been all season and said afterwards: "We changed tactics with him and it worked and he found his form for the first time this season."
Donnas Palm, winner of the Grade Two Flyingbolt Novice Chase, won't be going to Cheltenham despite his success when cutting down Foildubh in the shadows of the post.
The former classy hurdler, owned by the Grand Alliance Racing Club, had Davy Condon at his strongest to get the verdict by a head and his trainer feels a step up in trip would be next on the agenda.
Noel Meade said: "He won't be going to Cheltenham, and is probably not good enough for the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse so we'll try and find something a grade below that. He will get 2m4f and he had been running well in good company."
Tom Gibney's Lion Na Bearnai produced one of the biggest shocks of the season as the 108-rated, 27-time raced 10-year-old, won the Grade Two Ten Up Novice Chase at 50/1.
The Gigginstown House pair of Four Commanders and Start Me Up each looked like winners within the last 100 yards, but the outsider Lion Na Bearnai denied them both under Andrew Thornton.
In the concluding bumper, Sizing Gold justified favouritism for Henry de Bromhead who will wait to decide if the horse will now get a break or head to the Cheltenham Champion Bumper.