Last-fence drama denies Mikael
A mistake at the final obstacle cost Mikael D’Haguenet a first victory over fences in the Punchestown Gift Vouchers Beginners Chase.
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.”
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.