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Monday 12 March 2018

Douvan Aims for Cheltenham Festival Redemption

Douvan will face off against the great Altior at Cheltenham Festival in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, desperate to banish memories of his failure last season. Willie Mullins’ charge entered the 2017 Festival on the back of 13 straight wins and was expected to make it 14 on the bounce in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. However, he put forward the worst outing of his career, finishing in seventh place, which Mullins later claimed was due to injury. The bay gelding has not competed since and faces a massive challenge to produce the upset against Altior.

The display of the French horse on the big occasion was staggering due to his past success at Cheltenham. Douvan had appeared to have been healthy for the meet, but in post-race fitness checks, it was discovered that the bay gelding had a small stress fracture of the pelvis that limited his performance during the meet. Mullins has been careful with his charge in his recovery and has resisted the opportunity to put him forward for races over the last year. As a result, he is considered an outsider behind Altior and Min in the betting odds provided by William Hill for the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The seven-year-old does have proven pedigree at Cheltenham Festival, making a statement in his first appearance by winning the Supreme Novices' Hurdle by a comfortable margin. He defeated Shaneshill and Sizing John among others to take the crown, highlighting his quality. In 2016 he returned to the Festival to compete in the Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase. Mullins’ charge was considered the overwhelming favourite for the event against a talented field, with Sizing John once again in the picture. However, Douvan dominated the rest of the field and was able to win the event by seven lengths, despite making an error at the final fence.

He continued his dominant run into the 2016/17 season, adding victories to the Cashcard Chase and the Tied Cottage Chase to his collection. However, the injury loomed large at Cheltenham to break his run of success. As the French horse makes his return to the track, he could be without jockey Ruby Walsh, who may be tempted to ride with his stable-mate Min for the event. That’s without the challenge of ending Altior’s dominant streak, with Nicky Henderson’s charge reeling off 12 wins on the bounce.

Altior has a strong history at Cheltenham Festival, winning on both his visits to the event. He claimed victory at the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2016 before easing to a six-length triumph in the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase last season. Henderson’s charge has only been in action once since last term, but put forward a composed performance to win a two-mile event at Newbury Racecourse.
Douvan will have to put forward a flawless performance to compete with the Irish horse, and even that might not be enough to secure the victory given the quality of Altior in the closing stages. Mullins has to hope that his charge will be on form from the off to put his rival under pressure to claim his chance at redemption.


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