Douvan delivers in great style
Douvan strengthened his claims for Cheltenham honours with an emphatic success in the Grade Two sportinglife.com Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
Already at the head of the betting for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in March after impressing on his Irish debut at Gowran, the Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old passed his latest test with flying colours.
Sent off the 1-3 favourite, the Rich Ricci-owned gelding was never out of second gear under Ruby Walsh, who sat in fourth through the early stages before cantering to the front hard on the bridle coming to the last. Having safely negotiated that, he cruised home from Alpha Des Obeaux.
Mullins said: "He did that nicely. He jumped and galloped and did everything that he does at home. He does things very easy.
"That race on paper looked stronger than the one Vautour won last year. I don't think ground or trip make any difference to him, and I'd imagine he'll go straight to Cheltenham now."
Walsh added: "He did it very well. He travelled well, he jumped super. They were probably stayers he beat but they're decent enough horses, it was a good performance. He has the size and scope to be a beautiful horse next year - when he fills into his frame, he'll be some horse.
"He has a lot of natural ability and hopefully we can keep him right and going the right way and get him to Cheltenham in one piece.
"He was very professional with his jumping and travelled beautifully, settled lovely, quickened up the little bit when he had to - it was hard to knock it.
"He's a very good horse. I'd say you could go any trip with him, two, two and a half - I doubt you'd have to go the Albert Bartlett, but either of the other two (Supreme and Neptune) wouldn't bother me."
RaceBets cut Douvan to 5-2 favourite from 4-1 for the Supreme, and to 4-1 market leader from 10s for the Neptune.
Spokesman Joseph Burke said: "Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci are treading a similar path with Douvan as they did with Vautour last season.
"Douvan was far more impressive than Vautour in winning the Moscow Flyer and when you consider that Vautour went on to win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham, it is no surprise that Douvan is now the clear favourite to follow in his stablemate's hoofprints."
Betfred trimmed Douvan to 3-1 from 5-1 for the Supreme, leaving him unchanged at 6-1 favourite for the longer Neptune. Paddy Power quote him as 3-1 favourite from 4-1 joint-favourite for the Supreme.