Mikael bids to be force of nature
Mikael D'Haguenet faces seven rivals as he goes on a retrieval mission in the Bord na Mona With Nature Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Thursday.
Willie Mullins' exciting prospect fell at the final fence at Fairyhouse just two weeks ago after looking like making a triumphant comeback in the Drinmore Novice Chase following more than 19 months off the track.
Now his trainer is just hoping the tumble has no lasting effects, saying: "He seems fine after his last run, as long as he didn't lose his confidence. He'll handle the ground, but we just hope the last run didn't dent his confidence. He has jumped well schooling since."
Mikael D'Haguenet will certainly face a stiff test as he drops back in trip to two miles and a furlong. Noble Prince and Realt Dubh are major contenders, while Henry de Bromhead is represented by Loosen My Load, who was due to run in the abandoned Feltham Novices' Chase at Kempton over Christmas.
De Bromhead said: "He's in good form but unfortunately he won't be in love with that ground, he's more a good ground horse. It looks a stronger race than what the Feltham would have been and while our lad is lovely, he's going to hate the ground, unfortunately.
"I want to step him up in trip but I don't want to do it in the really heavy ground we get over here so we'll do that in the spring maybe. One thing that is in his favour is his jumping, it's brilliant."
Paul Nolan reports Noble Prince to be in fine shape following his victory at Punchestown on his seasonal reappearance. However, he appreciates the task facing his charge.
"He's very well and we're very pleased with the horse, but it's a hell of a race," said the County Wexford trainer."
Jessica Harrington is also fully aware of the challenge facing her runner Saludos, who got off the mark over fences at Navan in November.
"He's been very good and we're very happy with him," said the County Kildare trainer. "It's a very tough race. I'd say it's the race of the year."