PAT KEANE: Douvan looks a snip at 5-2 for the Supreme Novices Hurdle

PUNCHESTOWN 10-1-2015. The www.sportinglife.com Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle.DOUVAN and Ruby Walsh after their win. Photo: HEALY RACING.

If the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle were taking place at Cheltenham tomorrow wouldn’t you sell out on Douvan at 5-2?

The ex-French horse has run just twice in Ireland, creating a big impression both at Gowran Park initially and then at Punchestown last Saturday.

There are those who think that his Gowran success, winning a novice hurdle by 12 lengths, was better than what he did in a Grade 2 at Punchestown, but here’s one who can’t have that.

He was, of course, deeply impressive at Gowran, beating Sizing John in a canter.

Sizing John then went and won a Grade 1 at Leopardstown, which, at least in theory, gave the form a massive boost.

But that Leopardstown race was only contested by five runners and completely fell apart.

The warm favourite, Nichols Canyon, went at the third and Mckinley, we all know what he did afterwards, was pulled up shortly after the departure of the hot pot.

Essentially then the jury has to be out for the moment regarding Sizing John and we will have to wait for another day to gauge his true worth.

Compared to Gowran, the Punchestown race, at least to my eyes, was far more competitive.

It was run at a decent gallop throughout and, when it was over, there were decent gaps between the finishers and that is nearly always a good sign.

You can argue Douvan eventually beat a horse needing at least two and a half miles — Alpha Des Obeaux — and that is fair enough.

But Alpha Des Obeaux did everything absolutely right from start to finish and his jumping was a joy to watch.

Indeed, his rider, Bryan Cooper, said he thought he might even win turning in, so solid had the pace been.

But for those of us who felt Alpha Des Obeaux might turn over the favourite beforehand, it was particularly sobering to note the manner in which Douvan arrived in the straight.

He was doing half speed and only a high-class horse could have cruised into contention in that manner.

The five-year-old put the race to bed in a few strides and his winning margin of three and three parts of a length was little indication of what was under the bonnet.

The problem with Douvan, however, is that we keep hearing he is going to be a far better horse in some 12 months time.

Ruby Walsh said as much in his column here last Saturday and he repeated it on ATR after Douvan had won at Punchestown, and was again of that opinion when I spoke to him earlier this week.

Willie Mullins, also on ATR, indicated that Douvan is ready to run at Cheltenham right now and certainly didn’t hint he had left a massive amount to work on.

The vibes coming from Closutton then, say the week before Cheltenham, are going to be particularly relevant.

Douvan is not going to run again before the Festival and how he progresses physically in the coming weeks will be of major importance.

That price was wrong and so was the other one! They were certainly out in force for Ted Walsh’s Champagne James last weekend.

He ran in a beginners chase at Fairyhouse on Sunday and Paddy Power put a 9-4 to him on Saturday evening.

That was far too big and self-respecting vultures were left with no choice but to avail of such generosity.

The price soon began to tumble and this waffler was more than happy to grab some 7-4. By Sunday morning, Champagne James had become an odds-on shot and, as ridiculous as 9-4 was, this was arguably even worse.

I cannot ever get my head around punters willing to trade at odds-on any horse in a beginners chase.

Even the most seasoned of jumpers are ever only one leap away from disaster and here punters were placing their faith on a horse having only a third outing over fences.

But they couldn’t get enough of him on the exchanges and Champagne James was eventually returned at 8-11.

He was finally beaten three quarters of a length into second by main market rival, Dromnea, and the fact he should probably have won is neither here nor there.

Watching Blair Perrone trailing in a remote fifth behind Douvan at Punchestown left me wondering about Dermot Weld’s Silver Concorde.

Weld’s charge went off at 1-3 to make a winning debut over flights at Leopardstown at Christmas, but was beaten two lengths into second by Blair Perrone.

Silver Concorde did just about everything right through the contest and looked sure to score early in the straight.

But he failed to pick up at all from the last, which was really surprising for a horse that won the Bumper at Cheltenham in March.

This effort can’t possibly represent the real Silver Concorde and we’d just love to see him again in the near future.


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