Festival shock as Douvan likely to tackle Ryanair rather than Champion Chase
Willie Mullins revealed on Sunday that Douvan is likely to be redirected to the Ryanair Chase instead of taking on the fellow Rich Ricci-owned Min in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Douvan has not been seen on a racetrack since suffering a fractured pelvis when finishing a well-beaten seventh in last year's Champion Chase.
Mullins had indicated that the Champion Chase would be his festival target should he get there, but he revealed a likely change of direction following consultations with the owner.
"Having spoken to connections, we have decided we are likely to keep Min and Douvan apart," he told the Racing Post on Sunday.
"With the Ryanair looking like it might cut up a little, we are thinking about running Douvan in that along with Un De Sceaux."
After checking on his festival team, including first day favourites Getabird and Footpad, and past Festival winners, Faugheen and Douvan, at the racecourse stables on Sunday afternoon, Willie Mullins said: "The horses have travelled over well and we'll wait until the morning before deciding if Douvan will be declared for the Champion Chase on Wednesday or wait for the Ryanair on Thursday.
"Un De Sceaux definitely goes for the Ryanair and is in very good form."
The Ryanair second-favourite Waiting Patiently was ruled out of the race in recent days, so Douvan's addition to the line-up would be a major boost for Thursday's feature chase, run over 2m5f.
Un De Sceaux is owned by the O'Connell family and a tweet from the O'Connell Group account, reacting to Douvan's potential switch, read: "Wow, what a race we have now."
Unbeaten in 13 starts for Mullins prior to last year's Cheltenham reversal, Douvan was a general 4-1 shot for Wednesday's Champion Chase in which he was set to tackle the hot favourite Altior.
A brilliant winner of the 2015 Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the 2016 Arkle Trophy, Douvan is trading at between 5-2 and 4-1 for Thursday's Ryanair.
Rich Ricci, the owner of Douvan, told Racing UK on Sunday: "Getting Douvan back at all is a massive ask, but we just thought it was worth considering him for the Ryanair, a race which has cut up.
"I had a chat with Willie yesterday and we are open to the idea. We’ve got until tomorrow to change our minds. But I would be leaning towards the Ryanair, which would still be a big ask for Douvan."
On riding arrangements in the Ryanair he added: "It would be a massive ask for Ruby [Walsh] to get off Un De Sceaux."
If you are interested in this, you might also like: