Douvan delivers on chasing debut at Navan
Douvan made a near-perfect start to his career over fences with an impressive display in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Beginners Chase at Navan.
The French recruit won each of his four starts after joining Willie Mullins last season and was a brilliant winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
A prohibitively priced 2-11 favourite for his eagerly-awaited comeback and chasing debut, Douvan was sent straight to the lead by Ruby Walsh and jumped with accuracy and speed for much of the two-mile-one-furlong journey.
The five-year-old found an extra gear to leave Rogue Trader and Blair Perrone trailing in his wake between the final two fences and while his supporters suffered a brief heart-stopping moment when he guessed slightly at the final fence, he got to the other side in one piece and quickened away for a nine-and-a-half-length success.
Rogue Trader beat Blair Perrone to the runner-up spot.
RaceBets clipped Douvan to 6/4 favourite (from 2) for the Arkle at Cheltenham.
Walsh said: "It's hard when it's so uncompetitive, as all you can do is get it wrong. When there's something coming at you, or you have horses around you, it's a bit easier.
"He was professional and went along in front on his own. He jumped really well bar the last, but it was almost as though he heard the horses coming behind him and revved up three strides away.
"He had a bit of a grab at it (the fence), but he's a novice and gives you a great feel - he's loads of power - and I'd be happy with him.
"He's a very talented horse. Anything we've asked him to do he's done it. He's obviously going to face stiffer opposition and better tests and we can look forward to them."
Mullins said: "He jumped well. I don't think we learned anything except that he's able to jump fences. We probably learned he's able to handle himself when he stood too far back off the fence. He was cute enough and got his two feet out and recovered well, which is a good sign in a horse.
"Ruby said the horses coming behind revved him up a bit, which is no harm, he got some experience. Otherwise it was probably just a schooling session for him, but we'll take those when we get them.
"He was fairly well forward, but he's a big, angular horse and doesn't carry a lot of condition.
"The Racing Post (Novice Chase) at Leopardstown would look the next race. I don't think we've got time to put another run in. He'll probably just have a good schooling session somewhere."