Douvan leads Flyer field
Willie Mullins is keeping his fingers crossed that Douvan can follow in the hoofprints of stable companion Vautour and cement his Cheltenham Festival claims in the sportinglife.com Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
Vautour was made to pull out all the stops to justify long odds-on favouritism in the Grade Two contest 12 months ago, but went on to run out a brilliant winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham before following up at Punchestown.
The champion trainer also struck gold with the talented Mikael D'Haguenet in 2009 before his Festival success in what is now the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle.
Douvan, already challenging for favouritism for this year's Supreme after a thrilling Irish debut at Gowran Park in November, is also likely to be prohibitive odds when he faces five rivals this weekend.
Mullins said: "Vautour won the race last year so we have taken the same route with Douvan and hopefully we might get the same results."
Douvan heads the betting for this season's Cheltenham curtain-raiser along with the Nicky Henderson-trained L'Ami Serge, winner of last weekend's Tolworth at Sandown.
Big-race jockey Ruby Walsh feels Douvan is likely to be an even better horse next season.
"L'Ami Serge has looked very good in England, but Douvan looked very good first time out," Walsh told Racing UK.
"The form of the second horse has worked out, if not the third, as Sizing John came out and won a Grade One (Future Champions Novice Hurdle, Leopardstown)
"He looks good but I think with another summer's grass and when he fills out his frame, he'll be even better next year.
"On looks he looks like a horse who will improve with time."