Sunday 18 February 2018

Mourad upsets odds-on Mikael

Willie Mullins landed his first Ladbrokes Boyne Hurdle, but not with the horse expected by punters, as Mourad floored his odds-on stablemate Mikael D'Haguenet at Navan.

Sent off at 4/11, all looked to be going well for the hitherto resurgent Mikael D'Haguenet when he made smooth progress to take closer order just after halfway.

Mourad, meanwhile, had been in the firing line from flagfall and after jumping the third-last, the signs were that Mikael D'Haguenet was struggling. And so it proved as Mourad and Paul Townend pinged the last to stretch six and a half lengths clear.

"Mourad had been disappointing this year and I didn't think he was back to his form so we said we'd change tactics today and decided to make a lot more use of him," explained Mullins.

"He seemed to enjoy it a lot better and it didn't do his travelling plans any harm (for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham).

"I'm disappointed with Mikael D'Haguenet. I'll have to think of plans now for him. On ratings there wasn't much between the two of them but the other fellow just found his form this year for the first time."

Noel Meade's Donnas Palm got up right on the line to deny Foildubh in the Flyingbolt Novice Chase.

With Far Away So Close withdrawn at the start, stablemate Westmeath tried to make all under Andrew Lynch but Foildubh jumped to the front at the second-last.

Foildubh held a clear advantage at the final fence as Westmeath faded, but former smart hurdler Donnas Palm began to stay on strongly for Davy Condon and nicked the verdict by a head. Favourite Nearest The Pin never got in a blow and was disappointing.

"I couldn't believe the price he was," said Meade. "Donnas Palm had been running in very good company but is a little bit of a lad and the blinkers helped.

"He won't be going to Cheltenham or anything like that. He is rated high enough but wouldn't be good enough for the Power Gold Cup either -- we'll look for something a grade below that and he'll get two and a half miles."

Lion Na Bearnai landed a famous success for trainer Thomas Gibney and jockey Andrew Thornton in the Irish Form Book Ten Up Novice Chase.

For a long way Berties Dream held sway in the three-mile Grade Two event, but it started to get harder work for the Henry de Bromhead-trained nine-year-old as 50/1 chance Lion Na Bearnai and a trio of Gigginstown House Stud runners closed.

Lion Na Bearnai jumped the second-last in front but had Four Commanders and Start Me Up either side of him for company at the last.

In a driving finish, Lion Na Bearnai rallied to get the better of Four Commanders by three-quarters of a length.

Gibney said: "I can't believe it! He was meant to run in a 0-109 handicap at Fairyhouse but they did away with the chases and he came here with an eye to running in a handicap at the next meeting."

The two maiden hurdles on the card were won by female trainers with the locally based Gillian Callaghan sending out Oconnells Pike to win the opener in the hands of Keith Donoghue.

Jessica Harrington struck with odds-on favourite Maller Tree to land the two-and-a-half mile version under Robbie Power, while the closing bumper was also won by a hot favourite as Sizing Gold took the spoils for De Bromhead.

Irish Independent

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