Super Mik's a Cheltenham doubt

Mikael D’Haguenet is not a definite runner at the Cheltenham Festival – despite maintaining his unbeaten record over hurdles at Punchestown.

Mikael D’Haguenet is not a definite runner at the Cheltenham Festival – despite maintaining his unbeaten record over hurdles at Punchestown.

The five-year-old had barely come off the bridle to score on his three previous starts for Willie Mullins and was sent off the 4-11 favourite for the Grade Two Abbey Electrical Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle.

Ruby Walsh asked his mount to extend on the run to the final flight and he duly obliged, stretching clear to score by seven lengths from Donnas Palm.

William Hill were suitably impressed by the performance and cut him into 9-2 from 6-1 for the Ballymore Properties Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Victor Chandler now make him their 4-1 joint-favourite, alongside Diamond Harry, for the same race.

“We decided to change tactics as we thought there wouldn’t be enough pace,” said Mullins.

“His knee action was very evident and once again would have concerns if the ground got lively at Cheltenham, if he is go there he will not have another run.

“Going to France is definitely on the cards and I would have no fear about bringing him back here for the Festival.”

The feature Amazing Thailand Chase was rendered less competitive by the fall of hot favourite Big Zeb, but it was veteran Mansony who took top honours for Arthur Moore and Davy Russell.

The 7-2 chance moved up to challenge Watson Lake a long way from home and soon went in to a clear lead.

Big Zeb loomed up as a major danger turning for home but parted company with his jockey at the second-last, leaving Mansony to come home eight lengths clear of Watson Lake.

Moore said: “He has been a great servant and came out of the race at Fairyhouse very well and is as good as ever.

“Davy said that Big Zeb still had to pass him to win.

“He will go to Naas in three weeks’ time and then he may go for a two-and-a-half-mile Graded race at Navan.

“All things being well, he will come back here for the (Punchestown) Festival.”

Bookmakers have not given up on Big Zeb, despite his tumble, with Stan James leaving him unchanged at 9-1 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Forest Leaves got off the mark for the campaign with a clear-cut success in the Richard Keating Memorial Grand National Trial Handicap Chase.

The 8-1 chance travelled smoothly to the front three fences from home and soon bounded clear of his rivals.

Edward O’Grady’s charge appeared to tire slightly between the final two obstacles but a fine leap at the last sealed an eight-length victory over Tawnies.

L’Ami gave Enda Bolger yet another success over the cross-country fences with an impressive display under JT McNamara.

The 10-year-old was sent off the 1-2 favourite for the Glenfarclas PP Hogan Memorial Cross Country having finished second on his latest outing at Cheltenham and drew clear from the second-last to score with 12 lengths to spare from Jaspers Dream.

Dashing George proved far too good for his rivals when running away with the Jim Ryan Racecourse Services Handicap Hurdle.

The 4-1 joint-favourite travelled well throughout the three-mile contest in the hands of Paddy Flood and took over before turning for home.

Eric McNamara’s charge soon put distance between himself and his rivals and raced away to score by five lengths from Hold The Pin after pinging the final flight.

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox