Douvan clears another fence on his way to a superb success
PICTURE: Getty Images
Report: Aintree, Saturday
Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 5yo+, 1m7½f
DOUVAN extended his unbeaten record over fences to five races with a wide-margin success at Aintree, justifying odds-on favouritism in good style.
Sent off as the 2-13 favourite, Douvan did not jump with much fluency in the early stages, notably making a mistake at the third fence, but he was always travelling powerfully and cruised clear on the bridle to win by 14 lengths.
The Game Changer ran well to finish a never-threatening second.
‘A proper horse’
Townend, who was replacing the injured Ruby Walsh, was full of praise for Douvan.
“That was amazing. I was doing half speeds everywhere. He had a little look between the last two fences so I gave him a little squeeze and I’ve never known a horse pick up like that. I’ve never had so much horse under me,” Townend gushed.
“He’s a proper horse. He has so much natural ability and for a big horse he’s really clever. But he’s a lovely horse at home and is like a big, friendly giant. He does everything so easy,” the winning rider added.
Townend was completing a short-price double having steered Yorkhill to success earlier on the card.
‘I’ve never seen him off the bridle’
The biggest threat to Douvan was posed by the fences rather than his rivals and Mullins thought the horse did not jump as well as he has in the past.
“I wasn’t particularly happy with his jumping early but Paul said he was travelling too easy. He wasn’t clean enough at his fences but he was better once he went on a stride,” Mullins said.
Douvan’s win was his ninth in succession since joining Willie Mullins, and the trainer reiterated what a remarkable talent the horse is.
“I said before he went to Cheltenham last year, I’ve never seen anything like him on our gallops. Whatever you put up against him he comes up the gallops with his ears pricked. I’ve never seen him off the bridle,” Mullins said.
“We’ll see about Punchestown but it might not be fair on him to go. At the moment all options are open,” the trainer added.
Douvan and Paul Townend measure their next obstacle
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Pleased with second
One man who will be hoping that Douvan does not turn up at Punchestown is Gordon Elliott, trainer of runner-up The Game Changer.
“He ran a great race. Douvan is different class but we’ve picked up plenty of prize-money. We’ll probably look at Punchestown,” Elliott said.
How the race panned out
Alisier D’Irlande was sent straight to the front by Andrew Lynch and settled better than is often the case.
Townend and Douvan stalked in second, while the other trio were content to play their cards late.
Douvan jumped sluggishly in the early stages but his jumping improved as he warmed to his task and he breezed to the front after the fourth-last, still hard on the bridle.
The Game Changer travelled strongly and attempted to throw down a challenge between the final two obstacles but Douvan was still cruising and quickened sharply once given a tiny bit of rein, careering clear and bolstering the widely-held view that he is a superstar.
Douvan has yet to race beyond 2m1f but he has been introduced into the William Hill King George VI Chase market at 6-1 with the sponsors. The same connections’ Vautour, who was a narrow runner-up in 2015, heads the market at 7-2.
A more likely target for Douvan may be the Queen Mother Champion Chase for which he is the 5-4 favourite with William Hill.
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