Douvan delivers again in Aintree stroll
Douvan proved a class above his rivals to follow up his impressive Arkle success with an equally stylish victory in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices' Chase at Aintree.
Although his jumping was far from perfect over the first three fences, the 2-13 favourite quickly warmed to the task before disposing of his rivals with the minimum of fuss.
Tracking Alisier D'Irlande throughout the two-mile event, the six-year-old breezed past with a slick jump over the fourth-last. As the long-time leader wilted, it was left to The Game Changer to go off in pursuit of the Willie Mullins-trained machine, but it was a task that proved impossible.
Finding another gear on the run down to the final fence, the Rich Ricci-owned winner saved his best until last, producing a superb leap before cantering away in effortless fashion to score by 14 lengths, completing a quickfire double for Mullins and jockey Paul Townend after striking with Yorkhill earlier on the card.
Townend said: "That was some experience. I was doing a half-speed everywhere.
"He had a little look between the last two (fences), I gave him a squeeze and I've never felt anything pick up like it. I had so much horse underneath me.
"It's unbelievable the firepower Willie Mullins has and I'm very fortunate to be in the position I am, to step in when Ruby (Walsh) had the misfortune like he had yesterday.
"He has so much natural ability and for a big horse he's very clever. He's a gent to do anything with at home - he's a big, friendly giant.
"He covers so much ground and does everything so easy. He's a proper horse."
Mullins said: "I wasn't happy with his jumping early, but that's probably because he was travelling too easy. He wasn't clean enough (at his fences) until Paul sent him on.
"It was hard on Paul riding him for the first time in a race like this. Knowing that there was a front-runner that was likely to go on, Paul had to balance it, but he got it right. Paul said he couldn't believe how much he lengthened when he let out an inch of rein.
"I've told everyone before that I've never seen a horse like him on the gallops. He's never been off the bridle.
"I'd love to go to Punchestown with him, but we'll just have to see. It might not be fair on the horse. Everything is open. He could step up in trip next year."
Gordon Elliott said of The Game Changer: "Douvan was different class, but we are very pleased with the way our horse ran."
Third home was Fox Norton for Neill Mulholland, who said: "He's had a great year, with thirds in two Grade Ones and a second in a Grade Two, but as he came in early I think we will call it a day for the season."