• Racing/
  • Last Fence Drama Denies Mikael

Punchestown Gift Vouchers For Christmas Beginners Chase 2m 4f

  • (4yo+, 2m 4f, 12 runners)
  • Winner €8,280 2nd €1,920 3rd €840 4th €480
  • Going: Soft to Heavy, Heavy in places
  • Surface: Turf
Weighed In:
  • Winning time: 5m 21.30s
  • Off time: 11:56:31
  • Last Updated: November 17 2012, 16:45 GMT

A mistake at the final obstacle cost Mikael D'Haguenet a first victory over fences in the Punchestown Gift Vouchers Beginners Chase.

Mikael D'Haguenet (L): Involved in drama at Punchestown
Mikael D'Haguenet (L): Involved in drama at Punchestown

Willie Mullins' charge was a Grade One winner over hurdles but has so far failed to show the same sparkle in six chase starts.

This two-and-a-half-mile heat looked set to be a match between Mikael D'Haguenet and another classy hurdler, Mount Benbulben, with the pair sent off the 5-4 joint-favourites.

Paul Townend set out to make all on Mikael D' Haguenet and it looked to be a winning move as Mount Benbulben crashed out at the third-last leaving Mullins' runner in the driving seat.

However, a minor mistake at the penultimate obstacle was followed by a mishap at the last when he jumped the fence but slithered on landing.

Townend managed to stay aboard but Mikael D'Haguenet had lost all momentum and despite his best efforts to get going again, El Fontan swooped through to win by two and three-quarter lengths.

Mullins said: "We took the bold option of making the running. He'd been schooling well at home and I was delighted with the way he jumped earlier in the race.

"I didn't dream that the going was going to be that testing. I'd say race fitness just caught him out."

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The Mullins-trained Simenon was beaten at odds-on in the Punchestown Annual Membership Form 95 Hurdle as Davy Russell on Un Beau Matin claimed top honours.

Simenon was a revelation on the Flat in the summer, winning twice at Royal Ascot and running with credit at Goodwood, York and the Curragh after that.

Back to hurdles, the writing was on the wall two from home as he was pushed along in an effort to get on terms with the leaders and he was well beaten when making a bad mistake at the last.

At the head of affairs, the Gordon Elliott-trained Un Beau Matin was pushed out to beat Owega Star with something in hand.

Elliott, also on the mark with Tarquinius, was at Cheltenham, where he said: "He loves that soft ground and stays very well. I'm not sure where he'll go next, but it was great to get that win today."

Nick Peacock of Wicklow Bloodstock Limited, owners of Simenon, said: "He wasn't suited by the ground, it's really testing winter ground. Ideally he likes it just on the soft side of good.

"Racing is 98 per cent disappointment and we've just had a bit of the 98 per cent."

Minsk could yet prove a smart recruit off the Flat and he won with some authority in the www.punchestown.com Maiden Hurdle.

Big things were expected of the former Irish Cesarewitch winner when he joined Dessie Hughes from John Oxx last season, but a solitary start over timber could only yield a second.

He went back to Oxx for another campaign on the level, twice placing in Listed contests, and has now rejoined Hughes.

Taking it up a fair way out under Bryan Cooper, the 4-9 favourite only had the previously unbeaten Glens Melody as anything like a danger rounding the home turn.

The latter never looked like posing a serious threat, however, and Minsk eased home unpressed by eight and a half lengths.

Cooper, who had teamed up with Hughes to score with El Fontan, said: "I was very impressed and he jumped from hurdle to hurdle and he quickened going to the last.

"It's nice to get that out of the way and he's certainly one to look forward to. He gave me a totally different feel compared to his last hurdle run at Fairyhouse.

"He was keen from the start and that's why I went on down the back straight."

A dramatic race over the banks course saw Nina Carberry come out on top aboard Arabella Boy for race specialist Enda Bolger.

It was a battle from the last with fellow 3-1 joint-favourite Bostons Angel, and three-parts of a length separated them at the line.

But that was not the whole story of the race, as Lord Nellerie was disqualified after taking the wrong course, where a number of runners followed him.

Bolger said: "This horse has been so frustrating but Nina's always had faith in him.

"We'll stick at this game now. We've been so lucky over the years in cross-country races - we've had so many good horses.

"This fellow seems to have been around for a long time but he's still only seven.

"Hopefully he'll go to Cheltenham now in December and he'll be back here in February, then the Cheltenham Festival and then the La Touche."

Clondaw Court (2-5 favourite) looked an exciting prospect for the Mullins team after living up to his reputation when hammering his rivals in the Racing At Punchestown Tomorrow (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.

The five-year-old point-to-point winner was making his debut under Rules and could not have been more impressive in winning by fully 27 lengths, eased down.

Mullins said: "He did what he's been showing us at home. He did one bit of very good work and he translated that to the track.

"I had planned to go jumping but we'll have to go for a winners bumper now. He looks good."

Stan James make Clondaw Court the 10-1 favourite for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March, with spokesman Joseph Burke saying: "We had no hesitation whatsoever in introducing him as the clear favourite for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, a race his trainer has already won seven times."