The brilliant Douvan looks set to dominate the Navan meeting on Sunday with the focus firmly set on the French five-year-old despite the card featuring two top races.
Navan can boast both the €100,000 Troytown Chase and the Grade Two Monksfield Novice Hurdle this Sunday, but the main focus and interest will firmly be on the €16,000 Beginners’ Chase in which the Willie Mullins trained Douvan makes his chasing debut.
Ante-post favourite for Cheltenham
It’s a case of history repeating itself for Mullins given his star horse Vautour’s debut over fences 12 months ago in the same race which heralded the start of his novice chase campaign and sees Vautour as the early ante-post favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
Vautour will be at racing at Ascot on Saturday – and is the star name on a nine strong card for the Stella Artois 1965 Chase – but online horse racing tipsters and punters have good reason to focus their sights on Sunday’s race in Navan where Douvan is strongly fancied to strengthen his burgeoning reputation.
Douvan took a Grade Two title before tasting glory at Cheltenham in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last March and followed that up with an amazing run at Punchestown.
‘As good as we have ever had’
So impressive was Douvan’s win in the Grade One Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown, where he beat the field by seven and a half lengths, that he’s heavily tipped to take the Arkle at Cheltenham in March.
Mullins described the horse then as being “as good as we have ever had” and suggested this week that Douvan’s fans won’t be disappointed on Sunday when the horse makes his first return to a course since April.
“Douvan is in good form, “said Mullins on Tuesday, “and the plan is to give him his first run over fences in the two-mile-one-furlong Beginners’ Chase on Sunday.”
Moyle Park’s back after two years
The Champion trainer has other horses named in the two-mile-one-furlong race at Navan with stable mates McKinley and Shaneshill marked to appear alongside Moyle Park who is set to make his return to racing for the first time in two years.
However, all eyes will be on the Rich Ricci owned Douvan and champion jockey Ruby Walsh will be looking to make it four wins from four rides on the horse and extend Douvan’s unbeaten run to a magnificent seven – Douvan’s only defeat to date was a second placed finish in his first ever race in May 2014.
Walsh commented: “He’s a wonderful jumper and a natural over a hurdle, which makes us think he’ll be a natural over fences.
“He’s jumped a couple of fences and doing things right at the moment – he will soon school quicker and that will tell us more. He has the size and scope to be a good chaser, and I’ll be disappointed if he isn’t.”
Douvan’s debut over fences on Sunday is a stepping stone towards the Christmas meeting at Leopardstown and the Grade One Racing Post Arkle on December 26 before the ultimate prize at Cheltenham in the spring.
By: Joe Cahal