Douvan and 'Mag' don't need prep run for Festival - Mullins
The option to run both Douvan and Vroum Vroum Mag this weekend may be taken but Patrick Mullins insists the pair will still be fighting fit for next month's Cheltenham Festival even without a prep run.
Mullins, Irish Independent columnist and son of champion trainer Willie, outlined how six-time Grade One-winning chaser Douvan and the versatile mare Vroum Vroum Mag have been coaxed along slowly after season-threatening injuries, with both pleasing on the Closutton gallops in recent weeks.
Today's final declarations - made after their weekend preparations are completed - will determine whether Douvan runs in tomorrow's Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park and if Vroum Vroum Mag lines up for Sunday's Boyne Hurdle at Navan, but Mullins is not concerned if one or both go to the Cotswolds without a race under their belts.
Of Douvan, Mullins said: "We've just been taking it day by day with Douvan slowly stepping him up.
"The vet's been very happy with him. Holly Conte, who rides him out every day, is happy with him so until we see something to stop we're just going to keep slowly building it.
"We'll have to see how he works later in the week but we've just given ourselves the option of having a run. We brought Quevega straight to Cheltenham for many years and it worked, so we've given the entry to give ourselves the option of running.
"It's not the end of the world if he doesn't have a run. Willie will decide later in the week but at the moment he's in great shape."
Of Vroum Vroum Mag, he added: "She got injured in Punchestown last year where she was disappointing in the Champion Hurdle so we've just taken our time with her this season and she's doing everything right, she's in fast work. She'll have to work later in the week and we'll decide then."
Meanwhile, Mullins' progressive chaser Total Recall will be aimed at next month's Gold Cup as he attempts to break his trainer's duck in the race. Originally targeted at the Aintree Grand National - where his odds tumbled significantly earlier this week - the nine-year-old will now head for the blue riband instead.
His trainer, who also intends to run Killultagh Vic, said: "We had been planning to run Total Recall in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse next weekend before heading for Aintree. But after discussing things with his owners, the Slaneyville Syndicate, we've decided to give him a shot at the Gold Cup."
Another race which could provide some Festival clues is tomorrow's Ascot Chase with Nicky Henderson's Mister Top Notch heading the betting at 7/4 with Ruth Jefferson's Waiting Patiently (5/2) and Eddie Harty's Coney Island (3/1) - the sole Irish runner - also battling for favouritism.
It would be a poignant win for Jefferson, daughter of the late Malcolm Jefferson, who got her first winner on the board yesterday on an emotional day at Kelso when Cyrus Darius prevailed in the Timeform Morebattle Hurdle under Brian Hughes just 24 hours before the funeral of Jefferson's father.
Jefferson said of the landmark success: "We won't be making any changes as it has worked well for the past 36 years. I've been around the yard since I was three, but I've been pretty involved for the past 10 years and I have had a good teacher. This will give everyone a boost."
Elsewhere, Blaklion faces eight rivals in tomorrow's Grand National Trial Handicap at Haydock as Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge looks to cement his favourite's tag place for Aintree's showpiece.