Willie Mullins: Douvan has enough experience to justify billing

Willie Mullins believes Douvan has enough experience to justify his billing and claim a second successive Cheltenham Festival success with victory in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy.

Willie Mullins: Douvan has enough experience to justify billing

Having brushed aside everything put before him ahead of taking an impressive victory in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 12 months ago, the six-year-old has made a seamless transition to fences with three effortless wins to date.

After dotting up on his chasing debut at Navan, the Rich Ricci-owned gelding has since add two more Grade One triumphs to his name at Leopardstown, the most recent a 15-length success in the Irish Arkle back in January.

Mullins said: “This time last year I could not believe what I was seeing from him on the gallops. Looking back, I can’t believe I said what I did (potentially best horse he has trained), but I was only saying what I was seeing here (at home) and thankfully he lived up to it in Cheltenham.

“He probably looks our best prospect (of the week), but it’s hard to think you’re depending on a novice chaser, just because of the nature of novice chasers.

“Douvan is at that point of his career where I don’t know if we’ve ever had anything as good.

“He captures my imagination every time I see him.

“I am happy he has enough experience. He has had three starts over fences and, although it would have been great to have another, we had a very dry autumn.”

Ricci believes the sky could really be the limit.

He said: “He is so elegant and is such a wonderful mover. He is a monster and is something special. He is so tall if he was a human he would be Cary Grant.

“He does things effortlessly and he knows he is good looking. I just hope he stays sound as he could be anything.

“He is the most friendly horse and just a pleasure to have.”

Chief threat to the Closutton handler’s rising star looks to be the Nicky Henderson-trained Vaniteux.

Although running out an impressive winner of the Grade Two Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster on his last start the Seven Barrows handler feels he may have to settle for second best with the seven-year-old.

He said: “This has always been on the radar for Vaniteux. Douvan has always been there and we all watched him how he won the Supreme last year and he is probably the biggest banker of the week - we are going to have to go some against him.

“Vaniteux is in good order and if we ride him to finish second he would definitely finish second. Douvan is so good. Fences are like hurdles to him. He is scary.

“Like I say, Vaniteux is in good order - I can’t see us beating this brute, but we will try to.”

Despite The Game Changer winning his last three starts over fences trainer Gordon Elliott expects it will be a case of playing for a place at best.

He said: “He’s had a wind operation since the last day and used to bleed, but he lives outside day and night now and he seems a different horse since.

“Apart from coming in to go on the walker, he’s outside 24 hours a day.

“He’s won six chases and three Graded chases during the summer. It’ll be very hard to beat Douvan.

“If he stood up you’re going to be placed (at best), but I think if the ground dries up he would have a good each-way chance.”

Jockey Jonathan Burke is used to seeing the rear view of Douvan aboard Sizing John, being beaten by him four times. Although facing a tall order on paper Burke will be give the Henry de Bromhead-trained six-year-old every chance of finishing in the frame by deploying the tactics he is most suited to.

He said: “It’s all systems go, but on all known form he has no chance up against Douvan. He’s beaten us four times.

“I’ve always ridden him handy and will probably do so again. He’s as good a jumper as you can get.”

The seven-runner field is completed by the Neil Mulholland-trained pair of Fox Norton and Baltimore Rock, and Aso from the yard of Venetia Williams.

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