Douvan could be aimed at Ryanair rather than Champion Chase
Rich Ricci confirms star could sidestep Altior showdown in favour of Thursday’s race
Douvan could run in the Ryanair rather than the Champion Chase at Cheltenham. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
Owner Rich Ricci has confirmed Douvan could sidestep the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday and instead run in the Ryanair Chase the following day.
The Willie Mullins-trained superstar has not been seen in competitive action since suffering a shock defeat and injury in last year’s Champion Chase, but the multiple Irish champion trainer had stated his intention to let the eight-year-old line up in the two-mile showpiece again alongside fellow Ricci-owned stable companion Min.
However, Mullins and his leading owner are now considering splitting their aces, with Douvan now set to take on another stablemate in Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair.
Speaking on Racing UK’s Luck On Sunday programme, Ricci said: “Douvan coming back at all is a massive ask, particularly in a red-hot Champion Chase.
“The Ryanair has cut up fairly badly and we just thought it was worth considering going a different route.
“I had a chat with Willie yesterday and we’re open to the idea. It’s no secret I like to split my horses — why fire two bullets at the same race if you don’t have to?
“Un De Sceaux is a very worthy favourite (for the Ryanair) and it would still be a big ask of Douvan, but it’s certainly worth considering and we agreed we’d sleep on it and kick it around further.
“We’ve got until Monday morning to make up our minds and we’ll take all the time we need.”
The decision to potentially switch races will not be universally popular, but Ricci defended his position.
“Things change. The Ryanair has cut up — there’s not going to be many runners at all, I don’t think — and it would be silly not to reconsider,” he added.
“We left the horses in the races and so many bookmakers are non-runner no-bet. The reaction I’ve seen is fair and pretty balanced.
“There may be the occasional person having a go, but we’ve kept our options and we’ll have to see where we get to.”