Willie Mullins believes Douvan 'could be anything' after Punchestown success

Novice hurdler kick-starts Grade One hat-trick for champion trainer on opening day of festival

 

Willie Mullins hailed Douvan “as good as we’ve ever had” after another scintillating display in the  Champion Novice Hurdle, the opening success of a Grade One hat-trick on the  opening day of the Punchestown Festival.

After making it three from three for the champion trainer in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, it was little surprise the French import was a prohibitively priced 1-6 market-leader to end a tremendous season on a high, with Supreme third, Sizing John, rated his biggest threat.

Ruby Walsh cut a confident figure throughout the Grade One event and loomed ominously alongside the strongly-ridden Sizing John in the straight.

Once given his head, Douvan sealed the deal in a matter of strides and passed the post seven and a half lengths clear without being extended.

Mullins won this race with subsequent Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen a year ago, while the mighty Hurricane Fly claimed the third of his 22 top-level victories to date in the 2009 renewal.

The Carlow trainer believes Douvan could be the be the best of the lot, but whether he will remain over hurdles or go chasing next season remains unclear.

Mullins said: “He could be anything. He’s way more efficient jumping than Faugheen ever was, or is, and that from a novice is extraordinary, really.

“He’s just been like that all season and at home he has answered all our questions.

“He’s an amazing athlete. He also has size and scope as he’s almost 17 hands. He’s extraordinary.

“We didn’t know what he was but we knew he was better than anything else when we put him against the novices. Gail (Carlisle) rides him all the time and every time he came up the gallop he was quicker than anything else.

“I can’t wait to get him over a fence but I’ll have to chat to connections.

“Rich (Ricci, owner) has Faugheen for the Champion Hurdle but it’s a nice problem to have.

“Some hurdles you didn’t even notice him come off the ground – when Ruby gave him a squeeze he flicked into overdrive.

“He has to be as good as we’ve ever had. He’s not a Hurricane Fly type, he’s a chaser.

“We’ll put him away now and decide whether he’ll stay hurdling or go chasing.”

The Mullins team also claimed top honours in the BoyleSports Champion Chase with apparent third string Felix Yonger.

Passed over by Ruby Walsh and Paul Townend in favour of Champagne Fever and Twinlight respectively, 5-1 shot Felix Yonger benefited from an excellent ride from Danny Mullins to get the better of 40-1 outsider Baily Green by half a length.

“That’s great for Danny. He went off to America the last two weekends and rode four winners. He’s riding out of his skin,” said Mullins.

“We thought it was a very open race going out. Ruby said Champagne Fever slipped going into the first and was never right after. Paul said Twinlight hit a wing in mid-air and his race was gone then.

“Felix Yonger is a good horse. They are calling it good to yielding but there is a lot more good in it and that suits him so I thought he might come into it. It didn’t surprise me. We’ll probably put him away now.”

Mullins completed the Grade One hat-trick for the afternoon in the Growise Champion Novice Chase, but it was Valseur Lido, rather than hot favourite and stable companion Don Poli, who clinched victory.

Don Poli was all the rage as the 4-9 market leader after his RSA Chase triumph at Cheltenham, but raced lazily throughout and eventually weakened to finish last of the five runners.

Valseur Lido (15-2), on the other hand, travelled sweetly under Walsh and picked up from the final fence to beat the front-running Wounded Warrior by two and a quarter lengths.

Mullins said: “He (Valseur Lido) probably just preferred that ground better than Don Poli. It was maybe too fast for him.

“I think Don Poli wants a longer trip. The Gold Cup is a fair long trip with the pace they go.

“This fellow (Valseur Lido) could go anywhere also. I’ve always thought he was a fair horse.”

Mullins is also set to inherit the winner of the Goffs Land Rover Bumper, Petit Mouchoir.

Winner of a point-to-point in February, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned four-year-old was a 4-1 joint-favourite for his first start under Rules for Gordon Elliott and quickened clear for an emphatic six-and-a-half-length victory in the hands of Jamie Codd.

Elliott said: “He’s a nice horse. He wouldn’t be the quickest in the world but he stays very well.

“He’s a very nice horse and Willie Mullins will have the pleasure of training him next year. I won’t have him, unfortunately.

“No doubt he’ll win plenty of races.”

Wish Ye Didnt had earlier extended Enda Bolger’s tremendous record in the Kildare Hunt Club Fr Seán Breen Memorial Chase with a sure-footed display under Nina Carberry.

Bolger, winning the race for a fifth time in the last six years, said: “We’ll probably claim off this filly on Saturday and it’s great to get the week going.

“Nina said she loved the top of the ground and we could keep her going during the summer.”

McManus enjoyed his second winner of the afternoon as Some Article emerged victorious after a thrilling climax to the Killashee Handicap Hurdle.

Trainer Tom Mullins said: “The Galway Hurdle would have to be in the back of our minds as he’s a good-ground horse.”

Timing’severything was a 33-1 winner of the concluding JLT INH Flat Race under Jane Mangan.

RESULTS
3.40
1 Wish Ye Didnt 8-13 Fav
2 Enniskillen 14-1
3 Oscar Day 25-1

4.20
1 Douvan 1-6 Fav
2 Sizing John 5-1

4.55
1 Some Article 10-1
2 Macnicholson 20-1
3 Game Changer 12-1

5.30
1 Felix Yonger 5-1
2 Baily Green 40-1
3 Hidden Cyclone 7-2
4 Jebril 33-1
5 Sizing Codelco 14-1

6.05
1 Petit Mouchoir 4-1JF
2 Policy Breach 25-1
3 Tesseract 20-1
4 Red Giant 14-1

6.40
1 Valseur Lido 15-2
2 Wounded Warrior 9-1

7.15
1 Timing'severything 33-1
2 Coeur Joyeux 5-2F
3 Weyburn 33-1

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