Altior among possible Champion Chase rivals for Douvan
Nickey Henderson leaves Arkle favourite in next Wednesday’s two-mile showpiece
Nicky Henderson has left Arkle favourite Altior in the Champion Chase. Photograph: PA/Simon Galloway
Douvan will face a maximum of 14 rivals in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday.
Douvan’s trainer Willie Mullins can also call on the Ryanair Chase-bound Un De Sceaux and the mare Vroum Vroum Mag, who holds a number of entries at the meeting.
Altior’s stablemate L’Ami Serge is in line to head back over fences, while Tom George is represented by God’s Own, who was second in the Arkle in 2015 and fourth in this race 12 months ago, and Sir Valentino.
Kerry Lee has supplemented Tom Gamble, as she goes in search of a first Festival winner next week.
Fox Norton and Sizing Granite are Colin Tizzard’s hopes, with Garde La Victoire, Special Tiara, Simply Ned, Traffic Fluide and Uxizandre completing the 15-strong list.
Meanwhile Mullins has 20 of the remaining 40 possibles in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle.
Big-hitters like Bacardys, Battleford, Crack Mome, Supreme favourite Melon, Invitation Only, Airlie Beach, Augusta Kate and Let’s Dance are still in the mix for the County Carlow handler.
Yet despite holding the strongest hand numerically, the ante-post favourite is Neon Wolf from Harry Fry’s yard.
Colin Tizzard’s Finian’s Oscar is already a Grade One winner, as is the Alan King-trained Messire Des Obeaux.
Willoughby Court has been kept fresh by Ben Pauling since his win at Warwick, while a decision on Keeper Hill’s participation has yet to be made by Warren Greatrex.
Henry de Bromhead’s Monalee and the Gordon Elliott-trained Death Duty have been left in, yet both horses are thought more likely to run in the Albert Bartlett on Friday.
Consul De Thaix, De Dollar Man, William Henry and Solighoster are others still engaged.
Elsewhere ante-post favourite Might Bite is among a list of 26 confirmations for the RSA Chase.
One of three possibles from the Nicky Henderson stable along with Whisper and O O Seven, Might Bite was one of the most unluckiest losers of the season when falling at the last fence in Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, when miles clear of the opposition.
Might Bite has twice won impressively at Doncaster either side of that dramatic tumble.
The Irish field a strong team, headed by Mouse Morris’ Alpha Des Obeaux and Acapella Bourgeois, trained by Sandra Hughes.
Other Irish-trained possibles are Noel Meade’s A Genie In Abottle and Disko, Mullins’ pair of Bellshill and Haymount, Martello Tower (Mags Mullins) and three from Henry de Bromhead’s yard — Balko Des Flos, Heron Heights and Marinero.
Among the home team are Harry Fry’s clear-cut Warwick winner American, Paul Nicholls’ As De Mee and Ibis Du Rheu, Charlie Longsdon’s Our Kaempfer and the Colin Tizzard-trained Royal Vacation, who was left to win at Kempton following Might Bite’s exit.