Willie Mullins left in awe of 'different species' Douvan
"A different species". That was the verdict of Willie Mullins as Douvan produced an effortless display in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown to cement his claims for a second Cheltenham Festival success.
Ruby Walsh dictated affairs from the start and the Rich Ricci-owned six-year-old proved a willing partner, putting in a superb round of jumping.
Sent off at the highly-prohibitive odds of 1-14, last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle hero ran his two rivals ragged and put their jumping under pressure from an early stage.
Douvan surged effortlessly clear to win as he pleased by 15 lengths from Velvet Maker. Doomsday Book was another 13 lengths away last of the trio.
By an aptly-named sire in Walk In The Park, the winner was cut to 1-2 favourite from 4-7 for the Racing Post Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham with Paddy Power.
RaceBets went 1-2 from 8-13 for the two-mile championship on March 15.
Mullins said: "I thought he jumped fantastic, maybe there was one fence down the back he stood a bit far off it. I was very impressed with the way he jumped into the bridle after the last and lengthened his stride.
"He hurdles his fences, really, and they are no effort to him. For his size he knows where his feet are. He's not awkward.
"His temperament is half the battle with him. He's so docile which means you can put him anywhere in a race when the time comes. He doesn't have to make the running."
He went on: "You are seeing now what he shows me every day at home. It's as if he's just a different species. The way he jumps I don't think we need to go beyond two miles at the moment, but we have never had any worry about his ability to stay.
"We don't know how good he is. He could be anything. He could go back over hurdles and run in a Champion Hurdle."
Walsh said: "He's a bit flat over his fences and doesn't arch his back. Master Minded used to do that, too - flat but effective over his fences. Not arching his back means he's fast away and that's a huge plus for a two-miler chaser.
"It's dead against what show jumpers are meant to do, but it's perfect for a two-miler chaser."
He added: "He's a simple horse to ride - he jumps out, watches where he's going and it's all very easy. What I really liked about him was it took a long time to pull him up. The ones that gallop thorough the line and around the bend - that's when you know there's something there.
"He's got the potential - Kauto Star had it as a novice, Vautour had it as a novice and this lad has it too, but until they go and do it in open company, you never know for sure. But Douvan certainly has the potential."
Ricci said: "I think he will improve for that run and with another summer on his back he could be anything.
"He looks to be the horse with the most potential we've ever had. He does things so effortlessly and has a great demeanour.
"He's something else now. It's great to see that and we're very lucky to have him.
"I can't wait for Cheltenham now. It's the Arkle, still. I'm sure even the opposition from Willie's yard as well as from England will all show up and want to take us on and try to do it to us.
"We'll have to see, but he just seems to have the right profile and I'm very hopeful he'll get there and put his best foot forward.
"I don't think he needs to lead. He's got a good turn of foot and has got unbelievable ability. I think he can win from anywhere."