Ricci retains hope for Douvan
Owner Rich Ricci reports Douvan to be "50-50" to make the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The eight-year-old has been off the track since sustaining a pelvic injury when only seventh in the two-mile championship last March, with plans for a comeback run in last month's Tingle Creek at Sandown abandoned after he suffered another setback.
Trainer Willie Mullins initially thought his charge would be sidelined for the rest of the campaign, but the prospect of an unexpected return was raised earlier this month and Ricci is still hopeful of heading to the Festival.
He said: "With Douvan it was just the oddest thing. We are still not quite sure what happened. He was intermittently lame is the best way I would describe it. We don't know if it was related to a former injury, but the vets told us he was out for the season.
"We sent him away and he turned a corner and he was back completely healthy. We started to do some bits with him, a lot of walking, now he is back in training.
"Everything has to go right and we've been here before with him. I'm hopeful he will make the Festival, but everything has to go right. At the moment, it is all systems go.
"He was in such good form before the Tingle Creek, we kept him busy walking, and he didn't lose too much fitness. We won't run him unless he is there to run a big race.
"I'd say it is 50-50 at the moment. It will be straight there or nothing.
"He will have two or three critical bits to do before the Festival, probably away at one of the racecourses in Ireland. It won't be a big racecourse gallop and of course there is always the Leopardstown jumping thing they do two weeks before (Cheltenham)."
Ricci admits fortune has not favoured his team so far this term, with Faugheen's lacklustre run and Min's demotion to second over the Christmas period providing particular lows.
However, he is hoping next weekend's Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown can spark a revival.
He added: "It (Douvan) was gut wrenching last year (in the Champion Chase) as no one saw it coming. In retrospect he wasn't himself all year, but he was still good enough to do what he did on a racecourse. It was just disheartening.
"The way the week was going, it was just one thing after another.
"I had a similar feeling with Faugheen at Christmas time as the week was going so wrong. It's been a tough run and no one is going to feel sorry for us as we have had a lot of success. You have got take the rough with the smooth.
"We've had a very unsatisfactory season and hopefully we can turn it around, starting next weekend."
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