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Cheltenham countdown: Douvan 'doing everything right'

Mon 26 Feb 2018

Douvan's chances of running in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase are now "better than 50-50" - but Willie Mullins expressed concern the eight-year-old has not had a Cheltenham prep run.

The dual Festival winner was ruled out for the season in November but it transpired the setback was not as bad as first feared.

He was entered for the Red Mills Chase at Gowran on February 17, but Mullins thought better of it.

That means Douvan will be having his first run since he was well beaten in last year's Champion Chase, in which he suffered a different injury.

Mullins said: "Douvan is doing everything right. He has a good few bits of work to do this week and he has to go for the Champion Chase, all being well. So far all is well.

"If the Gowran race was anywhere else I wouldn't have entered, but it was beside us and if it cut up to three runners, I might have been tempted. But when I saw the heavy ground, I wasn't keen.

"If he'd had a hard race or anything went wrong then he wouldn't be ready and I felt I could train him better at home.

"His work is certainly good enough at the moment. I don't know if he'll have a racecourse gallop. He's been away a couple of times already but it's day to day at the moment.

"It's better than 50-50 but he's got some hard work to do. It's a concern he hasn't had a run but that's what we've got to do so we'll have to live with it."

Douvan must take on a fearsome rival in Altior, who is unbeaten over fences and made a classy return to action at Newbury earlier this month.

Mullins said: "The clash with Altior should be exciting but I just hope I can get him back into the form he was in in November.

"Altior looked fantastic at Newbury and it should be a clash to savour if we get there.

"We did say we wouldn't do it (hard work) at home after he did an unbelievable piece the day before his problem emerged, but we're going to have to, I suspect."

One horse with no concerns is last year's Ryanair winner Un De Sceaux, who is bang on target to bid for a repeat.

"Un De Sceaux has done tremendously well and is in great condition, we've plenty to work on still for Cheltenham," said Mullins.

"He's always very strong in his work on a morning and we're very happy.

"Anything can change but the Ryanair is the plan at the moment.

"That's his target, as far we're concerned - unless something stupid happens to the other horses or it comes up really, really soft."

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