Douvan lays another Cheltenham marker with effortless Punchestown win

Ruby Walsh on limitless chaser: ‘You don’t have to do anything. You just sit there’

Douvan’s Cheltenham preparations continued in fine style as he sauntered to an easy win at Punchestown. Photograph: Inpho/Niall Carson

Douvan’s Cheltenham preparations continued in fine style as he sauntered to an easy win at Punchestown. Photograph: Inpho/Niall Carson

 

Douvan completed his Cheltenham Festival preparations in style as he strolled to victory in the BoyleSports Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown.

Trainer Willie Mullins felt we learnt nothing new as the seven-year-old barely came out of second gear to lift the Grade Two prize at the prohibitive odds of 1-14 in the hands of Ruby Walsh.

Douvan made virtually all in the four-runner affair and his task was made even easier when his nearest market rival Smashing was pulled up, leaving Realt Mor to finish a six-and-a-half-length second with Draycott Place beaten a further 31 lengths in third.

Walsh said: “He’s deadly. I thought Smashing would go a bit quicker but obviously he wasn’t up for it today and he never really took me on. I jumped by him at the first and he just sauntered around at his own speed and done his own thing.

“I gave him a squeeze at the back of the second last and he jumped out through the bridle. He won as he liked — probably as you’d expect him to win.

“I’d suppose it’s the old adage — the better horse you ride, the faster they go and the easier it is to ride them.

“He just has a huge amount of natural ability he’s a pleasure to ride.”

Mullins himself was pleased to have Douvan’s Champion Chase prep completed, adding: “I’m relieved that’s over. He’s probably not showed anything that he hasn’t showed us before.”

The trainer was completing a double having earlier landed the Pertemps Network Group Handicap Hurdle with the Danny Mullins-ridden Isleofhopendreams (11-2 favourite), who is now likely to tackle the Pertemps Final at the Festival.

Mullins had, however, suffered a significant reverse in the opening INH Stallion Owners European Breeders Fund Novice Hurdle as Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hope Cilaos Emery was run down close home by Gordon Elliott’s Mick Jazz (7-1).

Elliott said: “It was a good performance. We were toying with going to the Betfair Hurdle next week but we felt a winner in Ireland is more important.

“He won’t run next week now and we could look at something like the County Hurdle in Cheltenham.”

Elliott also enjoyed a brace on the day, with Oakley Hall (9-4) landing the closing Goffs Punchestown Festival Invitational Sale Flat Race for Jamie Codd.

While Ruby Walsh was on the mark with Douvan, he had to settle for second as sister Katie teamed up with husband Ross O’Sullivan to claim the racinguk.com/freetrial Grand National Trial Handicap Chase with Baie Des Iles (8-1).

Last seen when finishing fifth in the Welsh National at Christmas, Baie Des Iles made every yard in the three-and-a-half mile heat to see off Ruby on the Mullins-trained Sambremont by four and three-quarter lengths.

O’Sullivan said: “That’s her, three and a half miles and soft ground. We were delighted with her run in the Welsh National but Katie said the ground wasn’t soft enough. The rain came here on Thursday and she just loves it.

“The Eider Chase at Newcastle could be her next race. She was second in this race last year, and the owners Charles and Zorka (Wentworth) were over and keen to go for it.

“Katie gave her a brilliant ride, and she was keen enough to ride her that way. She was ridden in behind horses in Wales and Katie felt she didn’t like it. If something wanted to go on today she would let them but if nothing wanted to lead she would let her bowl along. She seemed to love it in front.

“She ran in the Irish National last year and ran a good race to be sixth. It’s April 17 this year and we are probably going to run out of ground for us at that stage. If there was plenty of rain she could run and she will get an entry.

“She is not eligible to run in Aintree as she is only a six-year-old. The dream ticket would be Aintree and hopefully, if she is in one piece, then we will be there next year.”

The Enda Bolger-trained Auvergnat (9-2) held off Usuel Smurfer in a thrilling finish to the P.P. Hogan Memorial Cross Country Chase to give 22-year-old Donal McInerney a memorable first winner since deciding to turn professional.

Bolger said: “Donal has been with me a few years. He was finding it hard to get rides in point-to-points so has decided to go down this route (turning professional).

“This horse is only a seven-year-old and should have a nice future at this game. He will have to go for the cross-country now at Cheltenham next month. He had a look there last week, and it was just unfortunate what happened last week (when unseating rider).”

Willie Murphy could look at the Irish Grand National for Velocity Boy (9-4) after he struck gold under Barry Cash in the Michael Fitzpatrick Memorial Beginners Chase.

The winning trainer said: “He’s improving. There’s a novice handicap at Naas in about three weeks’ time that he could go for now.

“We’ll probably give him a crack at something bigger too, and the Irish National is also in the back of our heads.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.