Tingle Creek absentee Douvan ruled out of weekend return by Willie Mullins
Douvan's comeback could now come over Christmas after he was not declared for Saturday's Betfair Tingle Creek Chase and ruled out of running this weekend.
Hopes that the exciting chaser would reappear at Sandown were dashed when he was not among the seven final declarations for the Grade 1 chase.
Trainer Willie Mullins said he was "not entirely happy" with the horse after exercise before announcing he would also not be considering two other races in which Douvan was entered at Punchestown and Cork on Sunday.
Ireland's champion jumps trainer confirmed the Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase at Cork remained the likely target of Un De Sceaux while Djakadam was still on course for the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown.
Douvan's participation at Sandown was the subject of intense speculation on Wednesday when some betting markets were suspended, and it ended when the Mullins star was not among the final field.
Ar Mad, Fox Norton, Politologue and Sir Valentino were the initial declarations, before they were joined by Ordinary World, San Benedeto and Charbel after the race was reopened.
Mullins said on Thursday: "Douvan worked very well at the Curragh on Tuesday. He cantered yesterday. He did another little bit early this morning and I wasn't entirely happy with him.
"Maybe he hadn't fully recovered from what he did on Tuesday and I decided not to declare him for Sandown."
The trainer added: "He's in the John Durkan at Punchestown on Sunday and the Hilly Way at Cork the same day, but he won't be running this weekend.
"Un De Sceaux is likely to have his first run of the season in the Hilly Way while the John Durkan remains the plan for Djakadam."
At Clonmel later on Thursday, Mullins added about Douvan: "I hope to get him back at Christmas."
The seven-year-old was unbeaten in 13 starts for Mullins until suffering his only defeat for the stable in last season's Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival after which he was found to have suffered a stress fracture.
Tingle Creek (Betfair prices)
4-7 Fox Norton, 3 Politologue, 12 Charbel, 14 San Benedeto, 16 Ar Mad, 25 Sir Valentino, 28 Ordinary World
The Tingle Creek had been earmarked for his return but a number of bookmakers suspended betting on the race on Wednesday following a surge of support for Fox Norton, who began the week as second favourite behind his odds-on Irish rival.
The absence of Douvan resulted in Fox Norton becoming the new odds-on favourite and others joining the race including Charbel, whose first choice had been the Betfred Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on Sunday.
His trainer Kim Bailey said: "The chances are he'll still be declared at Huntingdon because I'm looking for better ground and am concerned about the weather.
"If the ground is good he'll run on Saturday but if they get difficult conditions that they don't have at Huntingdon he will go to Huntingdon.
"If Douvan had been coming over we wouldn't have declared. We only entered the horse in the hope that perhaps they wouldn't and if so it would become a more tempting offer. I didn't expect it to happen."
The entire Sandown course remained under covers on Thursday to protect it against a forecast drop in temperatures on Friday and Saturday.
Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper said: "We had about 3mm of rain today and are expecting temperatures to reach about freezing tonight, and tomorrow night is potentially colder.
"We'll lift the sheets as soon as we can in the morning and put them down as soon as we can after racing, which is at least a three-hour job.
"It's impossible to change the going until the sheets are off but it's going to be mainly good to soft. There could be light, sleety showers tomorrow and Saturday looks dry."
Before Douvan was ruled out the Tingle Creek had also been earmarked as Altior's first target of the season until his comeback plan was scrapped last month.
Cooper said: "On the domestic front, taking out Altior, it has everyone you would like to see. It's disappointing Douvan in particular isn't heading this way but if he's not 100 per cent, he's not 100 per cent. He's too good a horse to take risks with."
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Douvan's stablemate Un De Sceaux, last year's Tingle Creek winner, was also taken out by Mullins, although Sunday's Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase at Cork has been his aim for a while.
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