Exciting Douvan set for debut over fences at Navan
Published 18/11/2015 | 02:30
A day after Vautour is pencilled in to make his eagerly awaited comeback at Ascot, Willie Mullins could unleash another precocious chasing prospect in the same race that the Gold Cup favourite first announced its enormous potential over the bigger obstacles.
It was on Sunday's Troytown Chase card at Navan that Vautour made his devastating fencing bow 12 months ago.
This time, the beginners' event could feature Douvan, a similarly exhilarating individual that is 10 points shorter than anything else in the Arkle Trophy ante-post market at 2/1.
Like Vautour, Douvan was a deeply impressive Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner at the Cheltenham Festival prior to following up at Punchestown, where he destroyed Sizing John, which is still as big as 14/1 for next March's Arkle despite a second polished triumph at Punchestown on Sunday.
As a result, the Rich Ricci-owned five-year-old's initial chasing foray will be the subject of considerable scrutiny.
Also engaged in Sunday's two-mile-one-furlong affair are Grade One-winning stable-mates Shaneshill and McKinley, along with Moyle Park, which hasn't been seen on the track since splitting The Tullow Tank and Arctic Fire in a top-level novices' hurdle at Leopardstown two years ago.
The insatiable champion trainer has also entered some highly regarded novice hurdling prospects on the card, including Pylonthepressure, Stone Hard, Potters Point and American Tom. Urano is his sole contender for the feature event.
There are 19 entries for the Ladbrokes Troytown Chase, with Mouse Morris's former high-class campaigner First Lieutenant sharing top weight in the €100,000 handicap with Sandra Hughes's Irish Grand National hero, Thunder And Roses.
The Gigginstown Stud-owned duo ran at Clonmel last week, while Ted Walsh's entry Rossvoss won at Punchestown on Saturday.
Gordon Elliott, who won the three-miler last year with Balbriggan, has the largest numerical team. He has Gigginstown's Azorian and Bonisland, JP McManus's Riverside City and the syndicate-owned Georges Conn from which to choose.
"It's a great race," locally-based Elliott said of the Troytown. "I have four left in and the plan is that they'll all run.
"Azorian joined us earlier this year and we have been delighted with him. He seems to handle any ground and I just hope the weights don't go up too much. The step up in trip will suit and he'll have a good each-way chance.
"Bonisland has been off for a while, but he has a bit of class. Georges Conn disappointed the last day, but he gets in with a nice weight on his back.
"Riverside City is another with a nice weight on his back and I thought he ran very well in the Cork National. We know that he stays well and he'll sneak into the bottom of the handicap."
Mullins has indicated that Saturday's Stella Artois 1965 Chase could be a suitable starting point for Vautour.
The runaway JLT Novices' Chase victor has not been seen since March, but, despite stylish recent triumphs for Coneygree and Don Cossack, he remains the 4/1 Gold Cup favourite.
Mullins has also put Valseur Lido in the two-mile-five-furlong affair at Ascot, with Ptit Zig, Captain Chris and The Giant Bolster among the seven potential GB-based starters.
Meanwhile, Coneygree's participation in the Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday week is in doubt after the Gold Cup winner pulled a shoe on Monday.
The clear top-weight for the Hennessy after Don Cossack was scratched, he needs to come sound soon if he is to make the race.