Patrick Mullins bullish as Tied Cottage looms for star
Patrick Mullins has issued an upbeat bulletin on Douvan as the superstar chaser bids to warm up for the Cheltenham Festival with victory in the Boylesports Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown on Sunday.
Douvan will face a maximum of five rivals when he strives to stretch his unbeaten record for champion trainer Willie Mullins to 13 in the €45,000 Grade Two at Punchestown.
Douvan is rated well over a stone better than all of Sunday's rivals on official figures, and the sponsors have priced him up at prohibitive odds of 1-10. The Mullins stable has suffered some high profile setbacks in recent weeks, but assistant trainer Mullins insists it is “all systems go” on Sunday.
Speaking on the Racing Postcast, he said: “Of course there's going to a little bit to work on as it's not the festival but Douvan doesn't take a lot of work. It should be all systems go for Sunday.”
Looking ahead towards Cheltenham, Mullins believes Sire De Grugy is likely to get closest to Douvan in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
“I think Sire De Grugy could get in for second. I thought his run at Sandown against Un De Sceaux [in the Tingle Creek] was very good and obviously being a former winner of the race he handles the track. They will probably ride him to be coming late at the finish.”
The proposition of seeing stablemates Douvan and Un De Sceaux going head-to-head in the Champion Chase remains unlikely, however, with the latter expected to line up in the Ryanair Chase instead.
Mullins added: “I think Un De Sceaux is the most exciting horse to watch in racing. He wears his heart on his sleeve and he's able to go that breakneck speed and just keep going.
“On good ground he seems to be out of his comfort zone and his jumping seems to suffer because of that so stepping up to the Ryanair would look like the logical choice for him especially seeing as he has won over two and a half miles in the past.
“He is settling better and becoming more amenable. I think the Ryanair trip will be no problem to him.”
BoyleSports were among most bookmakers to shorten Gordon Elliott in the trainers’ title race following Mullins’ failure to land either Grade 1 at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Paudie Hassett, the firm's head of Irish racing, believes Elliott is now in the driving seat to win his first championship.
“This time last week you would have said it was a certainty that Willie [Mullins] was going to win the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Irish Arkle when Faugheen and Min were likely runners.
“After the weekend, however, we felt the need to push Willie out to 11-10. We think Gordon has as much ammunition up his sleeve as Willie does for the spring and that €200,000 gap is going to be difficult to peg back.”