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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Douvan and Sceaux set to clash at Punchestown in tantalising Champion Chase

Douvan, at home ridden by Hollie Conte, is set for a Punchestown return after his Cheltenham fall
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Douvan and Un De Sceaux, two of Willie Mullins’s star chasers, appear set to clash for the first time in the BoyleSports Champion Chase on the opening day of the Punchestown festival on Tuesday.

Although Mullins is keeping his cards close to his chest regarding big-race plans for the five day festival, Cheltenham faller Douvan and Un De Sceaux – who ran second to Fox Norton in the race a year ago – are among the 15 acceptors for Tuesday’s 2m Grade 1 event. Neither horse has any other entries during the week.

Douvan (left) ahead of Politologue (grey) and Altior (black)

Mullins has left in four other horses, including Great Field, unbeaten in five starts over fences and successful in the Webster Cup at Navan last month when returning from a long absence, and Min, who finished second to Politologue in the JLT Melling Chase at Aintree in Tuesday’s race which carries a first prize of €162,250.

Punchestown Tuesday card

Between them Un De Sceaux and Douvan have won 14 Grade 1 chases – Un De Sceaux eight and Douvan six – and the race sponsors make Douvan the 6-4 favourite to land the prize.

They make Great Field, who like Douvan and Un De Sceaux has no other entries at the festival, 5-2 second favourite and go 9-2 Un De Sceaux and 6-1 Min who is also entered for the BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle on Friday.

Respect and Rocco in Punchestown Gold Cup shake-up

Road To Respect, fourth behind Native River in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month, is the highest-rated of the 17 acceptors for the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday.

Road To Respect: will head to the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday

His trainer Noel Meade reported his seven-year-old on schedule for the 3m1f event.

He said: "All has gone well with Road To Respect since Cheltenham. We decided to give Aintree a miss with the Punchestown race in mind.

Click here to watch a compelling renewal of the Champion Chase at Cheltenham

"He had a little break and we're building him up for Wednesday. He has another piece of work to do in the next few days."

Also confirmed for the Grade 1 event is the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Minella Rocco, who missed both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Aintree National due to the testing ground.

Frank Berry, racing manager to the eight-year-old's owner JP McManus, said: "Minella Rocco is all set to travel over for Wednesday's big race."

Minella Rocco: missed engagements Cheltenham and Aintree due to the ground

The entries also include Djakadam, who lost out to Sizing John in a thrilling finish to the race 12 months ago, Edwulf, winner of the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February, and the Colin Tizzard - trained Sizing Granite, who landed a 2m4f handicap chase at the festival a year ago.

The ground at Punchestown was changed on Thursday from soft, heavy in places to soft. Dry and mild weather is forecast up to the weekend with unsettled conditions and showers expected early next week.

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All has gone well with Road To Respect since Cheltenham. We decided to give Aintree a miss with the Punchestown race in mind
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