Leopardstown, not Kempton, is next up for Douvan after dazzling comeback at Cork

Leopardstown, not Kempton, is next up for Douvan after dazzling comeback at Cork
Star two-mile chaser Douvan easily winning the Grade 2 Kerry Group Hilly Way Steeplechase under Paul Townend. Photo: Healy Racing

Douvan dazzled on his return to action in the Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase at Cork but is set to miss the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and be seen next at Leopardstown.

Last season's Arkle Trophy hero got his campaign off to a flying start by completely outclassing the opposition, to stretch his unbeaten run over fences to seven.

Understandably fresh after a break of 227 days, Willie Mullins' superstar was sent straight to the front from flag-fall by Paul Townend and jumped well in the main, with just the odd minor error, most notably at the third-last.

Townend turned the screw on the 1-6 shot from four out and the result was never in doubt as Douvan cruised 22 lengths clear of Days Hotel.

Mozoltov fell three from home and brought down Grand National fourth Gilgamboa, while The Game Changer was pulled up.

Douvan's success completed a quick big-race double for Mullins and owner Rich Ricci, following Djakadam's victory in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.

Townend said: "He was awesome. He was a bit gassy early, but it was his first run of the year and he did everything right.

"He was in front a long time and it (mistake at the third-last) probably opened his eyes for him and then he winged the second-last.

"I'm very, very fortunate to be getting the ride when Ruby (Walsh) couldn't be here and thanks to Willie and Mr Ricci for the ride."

Mullins was at Punchestown, where he said of future plans: "The King George would not be in my plan at the moment. I'm happy enough to stick to that (two miles) this year.

"Next year if we want to, but I'm very happy to stick at around that trip this year."

Mullins - who had an across-the-card six-timer on the day - added he was happy he had waited with Douvan and that he had sent Un De Sceaux to the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown earlier in the month.

He said: "He'd just disappointed me in one or two little bits of work and the last week he just came alive again, so I'm very happy I didn't send him to Sandown.

"That (Tingle Creek) was a very, very hard race, and I think he will improve more for doing what he did today."

Ricci said: "I think the Dial-A-Bet Chase (now Paddy Power Cashcard Chase, Leopardstown, December 27) at Christmas, I think we'll stick to two miles.

"He seems to handle that distance, I wouldn't be afraid of stepping up in trip, but there's no need to at the moment. In my own mind I'd probably stick to two miles this year and then see where we are next year.

"I think the two-mile route this year is the right one."

Paddy Power cut Douvan to 4-9 from 4-7 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, with William Hill offering 4-7 from 8-11 and RaceBets going 1-2 from 8-13.

Assistant David Casey represented Mullins at Cork and said: "I was very impressed with him for his first run of the year.

"We know what he can do, but I have to say I think it was right up there with what he has done before. It was a very, very good performance.

"Paul said he was hacking at all stages, he thought he went very slow. He has so much class, he felt he was going slow at all stages - that's the feel the horse would give you. It must be an exciting feeling to ride him.

"He was just buzzy down to the first, but he's obviously just fresh and well. He went and winged the first, landed in front, and he just left him there and felt he was idling away.

"It's a perfect start to the season. It's a great race to come and win, it's a race we've had a lot of luck in, and we didn't really want to take him across to England - we sent the other horse (Un De Sceaux for the Tingle Creek at Sandown) because he has more experience.

"For his first step out of novice company, I thought it was a very impressive performance."

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