Dazzling Douvan in total control

While Vautour failed to read the script when crashing out on his first visit to Aintree, there were no such problems for Douvan as he stamped his authority over his rivals in the manner only he know how with a decisive success in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase.

Those expecting to witness another masterclass from the exciting six-year-old were not to be disappointed, as he once again left his rivals toiling to make it a perfect five out of five over fences and give trainer Willie Mullins his first taste of success in the Grade One contest.

After treating racegoers to an exhibition round of jumping when winning last month’s Arkle Trophy, the six-year-old took time to warm to the task on this occasion after failing to inspire over the first three fences in his pursuit of early leader Alisier D’Irlande.

But with Paul Townend - deputising for the injured Ruby Walsh - quickly getting his jumping sorted it looked to simply a case of when the button would be pressed to put his rivals out of their misery.

That moment arrived at the fourth-last, as while Henry de Bromhead’s long-time leader brushed through the birch, Douvan was near foot-perfect and swept into the lead within a matter of strides on landing.

As Alisier D’Irlande weakened over three out it was left to The Game Changer to try and muster a late challenge and topple the 2-13 winner, but that task soon became an impossible one as Douvan moved up another gear on the long run down to the last.

Requiring just one more big jump to secure a fourth top-level win over fences, Douvan did not disappoint as he saved his best until last, before bounding away with 18 lengths to spare over The Game Changer.

Paddy Power left the winner unchanged at 5-4 for next year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, while William Hill also clipped him into 5-4 from 6-4 for the same race.

Mullins said: “I wasn’t happy with his jumping early, but that’s probably because he was travelling too easy. He wasn’t clean enough (at his fences) until Paul sent him on.

“It was hard on Paul riding him for the first time in a race like this. Knowing that there was a front-runner that was likely to go on, Paul had to balance it, but he got it right.

“Paul said he couldn’t believe how much he lengthened when he let out an inch of rein.”


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