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Superstar Douvan could make switch from Champion Chase to Ryanair

By Thomas Kelly

Owner Rich Ricci has confirmed that Douvan could sidestep the Champion Chase on Wednesday and run instead in the Ryanair Chase the following day.

The Willie Mullins-trained superstar has not been seen in competitive action since suffering a shock defeat and injury in last year's Champion Chase, but the multiple Irish champion trainer had stated his intention to let the eight-year-old line up in the two-mile showpiece again alongside fellow Ricci-owned stable companion Min.

However, Mullins and his leading owner are now considering splitting their aces, with Douvan now set to take on another stablemate in Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair.

Ricci said: "Douvan coming back at all is a massive ask - particularly in a red-hot Champion Chase. The Ryanair has cut up fairly badly and we just thought it was worth considering going a different route.

"I had a chat with Willie and we're open to the idea. It's no secret I like to split my horses - why fire two bullets at the same race if you don't have to?

"Un De Sceaux is a very worthy favourite and it would still be a big ask of Douvan, but it's certainly worth considering and we agreed we'd sleep on it and kick it around further."

The decision to potentially switch races would not be universally popular, but Ricci defended his position. "Things change. The Ryanair has cut up and it would be silly not to reconsider," he added.

Meanwhile, Buveur D'Air will face 12 rivals when he defends his crown in the Champion Hurdle tomorrow.

Nicky Henderson's charge is unbeaten in three starts this season and is odds-on across the board to win back-to-back renewals since Hardy Eustace in 2004 and 2005.

Henderson also saddles three-times Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours, Charli Parcs and the only mare in the field, Verdana Blue.

Willie Mullins also launches a four-pronged assault, with 2015 Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen joined by stablemates Melon, Wicklow Brave and Yorkhill. Faugheen is fitted with cheek pieces for the first time.

Gordon Elliott's Mick Jazz and the Henry de Bromhead-trained Identity Thief complete the Irish challenge, while Ch'Tibello, John Constable and the supplemented Elgin complete the line-up.

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