Test in store for Douvan at Leopardstown - Willie Mullins
Willie Mullins expects Douvan to be given a "fair test" when he bids to make it two from two over fences in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Saturday.
A stunning winner of last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham before following up in dominant style at Punchestown, the five-year-old made a fine start to his career over the larger obstacles at Navan last month and is already a hot favourite for the Arkle Trophy back at Prestbury Park in March.
However, it is worth noting that Supreme and Arkle-winning stable companion Vautour suffered defeat in this Grade One event 12 months ago and Mullins admits Douvan faces a couple of formidable opponents in old foe Sizing John and Jessica Harrington's exciting front-runner Ttebbob.
"It looks a hot race. Jessie's horse has had two very good runs, Sizing John is a good horse - it will be a fair test," said Mullins.
"I was happy with Navan, whether he got things his own way or the rest couldn't go with him, it appeared little more than a schooling session apart from a blunder at the last. What I loved was the way that when he was wrong he got himself out of trouble, he knew what to do."
The Henry de Bromhead-trained Sizing John found Douvan too hot to handle on three occasions last season, but has made a flying start to his chasing career, winning on debut at Punchestown in October before following up in the Craddockstown Novice Chase at the same venue a month later.
Jockey Jonathan Burke said: "It's a very tidy race, but I wouldn't swap my horse. We all saw what Douvan did last season and we know we couldn't beat him over hurdles, but our horse hasn't put a foot wrong over fences so far.
"Douvan won his first race over fences in a common canter, whereas our lad has won his two and you'd like to think we might have an experience edge over him.
"I do think our horse has improved a lot for jumping a fence. Douvan might have improved as well, but we'll see. It will be interesting. It's a very tidy race as Ttebbob looks like he could be anything over fences and Velvet Maker was impressive in Naas as well."