Mikael to break Mullins' duck in Boyne
THE rejuvenated Mikael D'Haguenet can deliver Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh their respective first victories in the Grade Two Boyne Hurdle at Navan tomorrow.
There are few domestic graded races that neither man has won, but Mourad's head defeat to War Of Attrition two years ago was as close as either has come in this. Tomorrow, Paul Townend takes the reins on Mourad, and that one is undoubtedly his stablemate's most potent threat on the back of a placed effort behind Big Buck's at Cheltenham to go with two runner-up finishes behind Voler La Vedette at home.
Still, former Cheltenham Festival winner Mikael D'Haguenet is a fairly exceptional operator at his best. Third to Voler La Vedette here first time up this season, he has since racked up three impressive wins, and this two-mile-five-furlong trip suits ideally.
Mullins is without a representative in the day's two graded chases, though Walsh is still fancied to take the Flyingbolt edition on Tony Martin's Nearest The Pin.
Strictly on form, Paul Nolan's Punchestown scorer Carloswayback is the most appealing of the seven runners in this, having accounted for subsequent winner Gates Of Rome last time.
Nolan's Far Away So Close is also a contender under Davy Russell, but the two-mile-one-furlong trip on drying ground is expected to suit Nearest The Pin best. In three starts over fences to date, Martin's seven-year-old has been placed behind Days Hotel, Flemenstar and Hidden Cyclone, so he may not need to improve much more to get off the mark now.
In the Irish Form Book Ten Up Novice Chase, Berties Dream, another previous Cheltenham Festival winner, gets the nod to land the €24,375 prize for Henry de Bromhead and Andrew Lynch.
Medical Card, representing Noel Meade and Davy Condon, denied Crash in a similar heat at Naas last month, and both he and Crash are honest sorts that should figure again now.
The latter Michael Hourigan-trained improver is 5lb better off for a neck defeat, so he could be the one to take out of that race, though it is interesting that Russell has opted to partner Four Commanders, fourth at Naas, instead.
That all said, Berties Dream is a more established performer, and he seems to have recaptured his old sparkle of late.
Beaten a head by Start Me Up -- another on duty again here -- on his chasing bow over course and distance in December, he went on to absolutely sluice up at Thurles in January. Granted, that wasn't an especially hot contest, but there was little not to like about the performance.
De Bromhead is also responsible for the day's nap, Sizing Gold, in the bumper. Second to the smart Make Your Mark on his debut at Punchestown in November, when recent winner Our Vinnie finished third, this son of Flemensfirth can build on that promising effort here.