Monday, December 10, 2012

Mikael Finally Lands his First Chase Success

When the Willie Mullins-trained Mikael D’Haguenet first made the switch from hurdles to chasing, he was spoken of as a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, but things just did not go right for the unfortunate gelding until he finally became organized over the larger obstacles at Punchestown on Sunday at the eighth time of asking.

Winner of four Grade 1 hurdles including the Baring Bingham Novices Hurdle at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival, the eight-year-old was expected to carry all before him over fences. 

Until the very last fence on his chasing bow at Fairyhouse in the December 2010 renewal of the Grade 1 Bar One Racing Drinmore Novices Chase, it looked as though everything was going to plan.

Approaching the last fence of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, Mikael d’Haguenet was upsides Jessies Dream and seemingly going best when taking a crashing fall under Paul Townend. 

Soundly beaten in his two subsequent races when starting at odds-on (both in Grade 1 company), Mullins’ gelded son of Lavirco fell again when struggling in the latter stages of the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March 2011, prompting connections to switch him back to hurdles.

After rattling up a hattrick over timber last season, before having his limitations exposed by the likes of Big Buck’s and Quevega, Mullins decided to give chasing one more chance and the patient method appeared to have done the trick, as the smart performer approached the last at Punchestown in November with the race at his mercy.

The racing gods were once more against him though as Mikael d’Haguenet made a dreadful mistake from which he did well to stay on his feet but which handed the race to El Fontan. 

But back at the same track on Sunday, and with connections’ collective hearts in their mouths, he pinged the final fence and easily outpointed Lord Windermere to finally break his chasing duck.

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