Douvan headlines Leopardstown five-timer for Willie Mullins

Champion trainer records a total of six winners in Ireland for second successive day

Douvan's grip on the racing public's imagination can be gauged by how Willie Mullins continued his Christmas festival blitz with a thrilling 46-1 'five-timer' at Leopardstown on Tuesday yet still found himself fighting his ground on future plans for the horse he rates the best he's ever had.

Considering superstar stable companions Faugheen and Annie Power struggle for limelight against Douvan, then Saturnas can console himself with not being alone in the shadows even after his own Grade One success in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle.

Both Meri Deive and Bacardys have their own Cheltenham festival ambitions too, and for the second day running, Mullins wound up saddling six winners overall as Some Neck also won the opener at Limerick under his son, Patrick, who later travelled to Dublin to win the last on Ballyward.

Despite everything though, the main ‘line’ from Day Two of the Christmas action is confirmation of what everyone knew already: it had been definite that Douvan would stick to two miles this season – now it’s definitely definite.

The most exciting horse in the country may still be 10-1 in some ante-post Gold Cup markets but romantics pinning hopes on a potential ’Blue Riband’ clash for the ages with Thistlecrack in March were firmly disabused of their romance after Douvan’s latest long odds-on stroll at Leopardstown.

For the seventh time in his luckless career that good horse, Sizing John, had a distant view of a horse acclaimed by Mullins as the best steeplechaser he’s had and who still possesses the sort of potential which might make him the best anyone has trained in a long time.

Douvan picked up a €59,000 first prize for winning the Cashcard Chase at odds of 1-8 and is as low as 1-3 to pick up a lot more than that in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March.

Magnificent specimen

If that won’t satisfy those eager to find out what this magnificent specimen might be capable of when tested in the steeplechase that matters most, the Gold Cup, then they can’t say they haven’t been kept in the loop of Mullins’s thought process.

The champion trainer declared after Douvan’s Hilly Way victory that his charge would be kept to the minimum trip this season. But he stressed the point on Tuesday, and with the sort of professional logic that creates an empire capable of producing a dozen winners in two days and which makes romance superfluous.

Inevitably quizzed about future plans, Mullins was unequivocal: “If we decide to go up in trip that will be another day’s work. I’ve no interest in even thinking about it this season. We are on the two-mile route this year. I don’t see any need to move off that trip.”

The tone suggested he doesn’t see any need to move away from two miles anytime soon, if at all, and on the perfectly reasonable basis that finding out his horse’s limits is a job for the opposition and not him.

If that contrasts with the ambition shown by Thistlecrack’s connections in sending a novice to the King George earlier this week, then Mullins can argue what others do is none of his business and getting any horse to Cheltenham anytime is a feat in itself.

“You’re all presuming everything is going to be 100 per cent: my main aim now will be to keep him sound and well. His ability should carry him through most of what’s ahead – I hope,” he said.

Ruby Walsh rode three Mullins winners, plus an inspired effort on a 'spare', That's A Wrap, that had him acclaimed as a "genius" by the champion trainer's brother, Tom, yet he couldn't escape the speculative frenzy which Douvan conjures.

“In time you probably could [step up in trip] but Willie is very conscious of developing these horses’ careers, and going the right way about it. Douvan is still a very young horse and has a lot of racing in front of him,” he said.

Walsh picked incorrectly in the Future Champions as Riven Light's jumping wasn't up to par and Paul Townend stepped in to win on his stable companion Saturnas who was two lengths too good for Brelade.

"If Riven Light gets his jumping together he should be a force," said Mullins who will target the winner at the Deloitte back at Leopardstown in February.

The trainer conceded he was enjoying a remarkable Christmas but insisted: “The only race that counts is the next one. We have to keep it going and keep producing winners.”

It’s a logic which means a potential tenth trainers championship in a row takes care of itself although quizzed on whether the title mattered to him, Mullins said: “You wouldn’t be competitive if it didn’t.”