Douvan could get chance to land killer punch for Mullins
Published 20/04/2016 | 02:30
Willie Mullins could pitch Douvan into bat at Sandown on Saturday as he chases down Paul Nicholls in the race for the British trainers' title, but first he will vie to land a body shot with two runners on a maiden voyage to Perth.
Nambour and Up For Review contest the card's £18,000 novices' hurdle, which has attracted just four runners.
Irish-born Fergal O'Brien saddles Barney Dwan, which recently ran away with Sandown's valuable novices' final.
O'Brien has a fine record at the Scottish track, as does Gordon Elliott, whose Fagan completes the field. Second at Cheltenham, Fagan is the highest rated on duty in a tricky contest.
Nambour is fancied to plunder the £11,260 winning prize under Bryan Cooper. A long way behind Up For Review in a heavy ground Grade Two in December, the Sholokhov gelding was thwarted by the smart Acapella Bourgeois in a thrilling encounter at Fairyhouse last time.
Over this near three-mile trip, the forecast decent ground should suit, so he can do his bit for Mullins' championship quest, and that of Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown, which leads JP McManus in the owners' title race.
There are eight raiders in all on the card, and there is also a cross-channel challenger of note at the other end of Britain on the Flat. Aidan O'Brien sends the recent taking Leopardstown winner Claudio Monteverdi to Epsom for the Investec Derby trial.
It isn't an especially hot event, and the form of the Ballydoyle's colt's maiden victory was nicely franked when the fourth, stablemate The Gurkha, sluiced up at Navan on Sunday.
If Ryan Moore's mount improves for his return, chances are he will take plenty of stopping in this.
As well as today's runner, O'Brien has four other entries left in Sandown's Classic trial on Friday.
Lieutenant General, Deauville, Unicorn and Beacon Rock complete his quintet in that, but it is Saturday that the real fun will begin - and end - at the Esher venue.
Mullins now has 24 entries for the British jump season's grand finale. After Nicholls yesterday grabbed a winner at Ludlow with the runaway bumper scorer Coup De Pinceau, plus three placings at Kempton, the deficit stands at £51,522, but Mullins can choose from Un De Sceaux, Douvan (left) or Vautour in the Grade One Celebration Chase, which belatedly closed with 10 entries yesterday. Vautour is also in the longer Grade Two on the card and Mullins has indicated that he might rely on Un De Sceaux in the two-miler, which has a win purse of over £71,000.
However, the temptation to throw the sensational novice Douvan into senior company, potentially against a star like Sprinter Sacre, makes for another tantalising prospect.
Henry de Bromhead has also entered his top-class two-miler Special Tiara, while Nicholls can choose from Dodging Bullets, Solar Impulse and Ulck Du Lin.
Kerry Lee has put in her Fairyhouse winner Top Gamble, but she has confirmed that he and fellow Fairyhouse victor Kylemore Lough will run at Punchestown next week instead.
Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father Colin, has also stated that their star duo Cue Card and Thistlecrack have "bounced" out of their Aintree heroics and are on schedule for the climactic Kildare festival.
So too is Barry Geraghty, who has expressed his relief at succeeding in his appeal against a 30-day ban for his ride on Noble Emperor at Limerick.
"I was just relieved that they saw the race in its true light," Geraghty said in his At The Races blog of the Turf Club appeals panel that exonerated him.
"It has been a tough few weeks, with the whole thing hanging over me, and it was a long night on Monday.
"It is a big relief that any potential damage to my reputation has been avoided, and it is brilliant that I will now be able to ride at the Punchestown Festival next week."