The mighty Douvan, ridden by Ruby Walsh, gave trainer Willie Mullins his 42nd Festival winner when taking the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy by an impressive seven lengths on the first day of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival. The Irish wizard Willie Mullins landed a sensational treble on the Tuesday with Annie Power in the Champion Hurdle Douvan in the Arkle Chase and Vroum Vroum Mag in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle.
It was Mullins’ second consecutive win in the Arkle with Douvan, following Un De Sceaux’s 2015 victory.
Six-year-old Douvan has only been beaten once in his career – on his first start in his native France. At 1/4, he is the shortest-priced Arkle winner in the race’s history, and one of eight odds-on shots to take the two-mile contest.
Mullins said: “It’s fantastic to get on the board. Hopefully he’ll just keep winning.”
“Where do you go next? You’d think about the Champion Chase, of course. I wouldn’t have had any problem with supplementing him for the Champion Hurdle this year, but he stays as well – and he settles. He could be – he is – a Gold Cup horse.”
“I thought they were going too slow, but I said that’s fine, he’s got plenty of speed, and as he kept going on one pace the others started falling off the back and I said he is just going a quicker pace than they are. He did that little thing at the last but it didn’t seem to bother him and he just sprinted up the hill. We think he could be anything and he hasn’t disproved that there.”
“Min [second in the previous race, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle] ran a terrific race – I think it was a second over record time on that ground. That’s as good as he is.”
Douvan and Min’s owner Rich Ricci, for whom the Racing Post Arkle was a ninth Festival success, said: “Douvan is a monster – I don’t know how else to describe him, he was so easy. I watched that race – I never watch them but he is that good, even I can watch him. He stood a long way off at the last and gave me a little bit of a fright but he is something else.”
“He could be really special and he is such a lovely horse. For such a big horse, he is such a great athlete. It’s nice to get one on the board and that was some way to do it.”
“He has always pleased us. He is very, very, very exciting. Willie has said that he is the best he has ever had and he is certainly the best that we have had. Hopefully he can keep doing it and stay sound – that’s the important bit. He is so quick, effortless, a sort of shrug of the shoulders and over a fence. He is so quick from the back of his fences without looking it. He just seems to have everything.”
At Fontwell Park on Saturday Flight Commander is strongly fancied to take the 3m1f Handicap Chase for the in form Oliver Sherwood stable.
Yours In Sport.
Back Next Thursday.
Kevan Minter – The Colonel.