Mullins deflated by Mikael's lacklustre display

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The Independent Online

This evening's champagne sparkle down Co Carlow way may just be tempered slightly by the more disappointing sound of a bubble bursting. Hurricane Fly gave Bagenalstown-based Willie Mullins, Ireland's champion trainer, plenty to celebrate at Leopardstown as he galloped to Champion Hurdle favouritism. But the performance yesterday at the Co Dublin track by one of the yard's putative stars, Mikael d'Haguenet, was as flat as tomorrow's dregs.

The six-year-old was six for six over hurdles two seasons ago, including three at the top level, before physical vicissitudes ruled him out of action until his eagerly awaited chasing debut 16 days ago. Then, he seemed poised to make it seven in a row, only to slip and tumble on landing over the final obstacle. His second try over fences was as keenly anticipated and he started at 4-7 to make amends. He will now be given a break before regrouping on his road to the Cheltenham Festival.

Mullins had dithered a little before opting for yesterday's quick return over a trip perhaps shorter than ideal. The stamina-imbued French-bred did not jump fluently for Paul Townend and was a spent force before the home straight, trailing in fifth – and would have been sixth had the narrow leader Saludos not come down at the last. "It may have come a bit quick after the last day," admitted Mullins, "and I'm hoping that's what it was. I wasn't happy from the fifth fence, where he was a bit close. He didn't jump with confidence after that and his rhythm went."

Mikael d'Haguenet has now lost his position towards the head of the market for the RSA Chase in March, pushed to 16-1 in some lists. By contrast, Realt Dubh, the winner of yesterday's Grade One novices' contest, has moved up the betting for the Arkle Trophy at the Festival after relishing the drop back in distance.

Paul Carberry's mount, who had been behind Mikael d'Haguenet at Fairyhouse before being gifted second, jumped with panache to give Noel Meade a second top-level prize after Pandorama's Lexus Chase.

Turf account

Sue Montgomery's Nap

Tornado Bob (12.40 Uttoxeter) Beat all bar a highly regarded type on his hurdling debut.

Next best

Monsieur Cadou (12.50 Warwick) Should improve for test of stamina after winning over shorter last month.

One to watch

Basil Fawlty (W Greatrex) Should not be long in adding to family's good record, judged on promising debut last week.

Where the money's going

Majestic Concorde has been introduced at 33-1 for the Grand National after Wednesday's Leopardstown victory.

Chris McGrath's Nap

Heliopsis (3.40 Uttoxeter)