Douvan set to return for Champion Chase at Cheltenham
Willie Mullins-trained horse hasn’t run since suffering pelvic injury at last year’s festival
Douvan with his trainer Willie Mullins: “I’m very happy with his progress.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Douvan sustained a pelvic injury when an odds-on favourite for last year’s two-mile crown at the festival, and hasn’t been seen in action since.
In December he was ruled out for the season after going intermittently lame on the home gallops. But his recovery from that was so quick as to encourage hopes he might yet make Cheltenham for a fourth year in a row.
Mullins is reluctant to commit to a return date to racing for the horse he has rated the best he’s ever trained.
However, he said on Monday: “We are hoping to prepare him for there [Champion Chase] and I’m very happy with his progress.”
Douvan is as low as 7-2 for the Day Two festival highlight, although most bookmakers rate his stable companion Min as the main threat to the hot favourite Altior.
Saturday’s impressive Newbury winner could have to overcome a strong Cheltenham challenge from the Mullins team, however. The Grade One winning novice, Great Field, who has also yet to run this season, also remains in contention for the race.
The weights for April’s Randox Health Grand National are released on Tuesday and Mullins believes the race is an “obvious” option for his progressive chaser Total Recall. Winner of both the Munster National and Newbury’s Ladbrokes Trophy this season, Total Recall is a general 16-1 second-favourite for the Aintree spectacular after scoring over hurdles at the recent Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.
Mullins said: “The National looks the obvious race. He’s entered in the Bobbyjo and he’s entered in the Gold Cup, but at the moment we’re just seeing how he is getting over his race the last day.”
The Aintree favourite Blaklion is likely to warm up for Liverpool with a run at Haydock on Saturday in the National Trial.
A total of 15 horses remain in the race, and Blaklion will attempt to build on his impressive Becher Chase victory at Aintree in December. His opposition on Saturday could include The Dutchman and Wild West Wind. Last year’s winner Vieux Lion Rouge is also a contender.