Mullins re-routes Douvan for Leopardstown bid
Willie Mullins is targeting a Christmas reappearance for Douvan after deciding against sending him to Sandown for the Betfair Tingle Creek tomorrow.
The seven-year-old has not been seen in competitive action since suffering injury and his first defeat in 14 starts for Mullins in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Mullins had earmarked the Tingle Creek as his comeback target, but he did not appear among the declarations yesterday and Mullins confirmed he will not take up his weekend entries in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase or the Hilly Way Chase at Cork.
"Douvan did a fantastic bit of work on Tuesday and rode out yesterday (Wednesday) and today and I just wasn't happy with him," Mullins said.
"We couldn't get the ferry this morning, it wasn't going to be a ferry until tonight, which I wasn't too pushed about anyhow, and I decided if I wasn't going to run him Saturday, he won't run Sunday at Cork either. We'll just wait and hopefully have him right for Christmas. I imagine he'll run at Leopardstown."
Mullins also did not declare last year's winner Un De Sceaux for the Tingle Creek, but did report him an intended runner in the Hilly Way, while Djakadam will bid for a third successive win in the John Durkan. Just four runners were initially declared for the Sandown feature, but that number was boosted to seven after the race was reopened.
The Colin Tizzard-trained Fox Norton, only narrowly beaten by Special Tiara in the Champion Chase last season before striking Grade One gold at Aintree and Punchestown, leads the way after making an impressive reappearance in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham.
Gary Moore's Ar Mad ran a fine race in last year's Tingle Creek to finish fourth, but needs to bounce back from a disappointing comeback in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter. Politologue, the Haldon Gold Cup winner, is one of two runners for Paul Nicholls along with San Benedeto, while Sir Valentino represents Tom George's stable. Kim Bailey's Charbel and the Henry de Bromhead-trained Ordinary World complete the line-up.
Elsewhere, Aidan O'Brien's team suffered mixed fortunes in the draw for Sunday's Longines Hong Kong International races at Sha Tin. Highland Reel is set to contest the 12-furlong Vase and he will start from stall eight in what will be his final outing before retiring to stud.
The five-year-old won the race in 2015, when he started from stall nine, and O'Brien's representative Pat Keating said: "I'd have preferred Highland Reel to be four to six but eight's OK."
Breeders' Cup Turf hero Talismanic will be in stall one, with Mullins's Max Dynamite in stall two.
O'Brien will be seeking to add another nice prize closer to home this evening when Clear The Skies bids for a five-timer in the €25,000 Irishinjuredjockeys.com Handicap at Dundalk.
Ballydoyle isn't represented in the www.dundalkstadium.com Handicap with Tom Hogan's veteran Gordon Lord Byron shouldering top weight. First-time blinkers might bring about sufficient improvement in Glastonbury Song to score for Ger Lyons and Colin Keane.