Douvan looks the part says delighted Mullins

Willie Mullins is in bullish mood as Douvan bids to get the Cheltenham Festival off to a perfect start for the Irish in today’s Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Douvan on the gallops during a visit to Closutton, Carlow, Ireland. (Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire).

The normally cautious Mullins has been unable to hide his excitement about a performer he hails “as nice a horse as we’ve had going to Cheltenham”, some praise from a man who is the Festival’s winning-most Irish trainer of all time with 33 victories ahead of the latest instalment.

The five-year-old Douvan has been mightily impressive since being snapped up from France, slamming subsequent Grade One winner Sizing John on his Irish bow at Gowran Park before treating his rivals with contempt in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown, a race landed last year by Supreme-winning stablemate Vautour.

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Mullins said: “Douvan looks the part. He does everything so naturally at home and on the racecourse when we have run him, so fingers crossed he can do it in Cheltenham as well.

“I think the track will suit and coming up that hill is what he wants. His jumping is good enough and Ruby (Walsh) is very happy with him.

“I think he jumps well enough, he has enough stamina and I think he’s got everything we need.

“This fellow is more like a long-distance runner than a sprinter. That’s why I think there’s huge potential in him.

“He’s got the physique and stature of a chaser.”

Douvan is the first of many bullets fired by Mullins’s powerhouse owner Rich Ricci, who is bidding for a third successive victory in the Festival curtain-raiser following the triumphs of Champagne Fever and Vautour.

“We’ve been very fortunate to win the Supreme the last two years, which is extraordinary. It’s a huge relief when you win that first race of the meeting,” said Ricci.

“He’s in very good form and I can’t remember the last time Willie was this positive. It was probably when Pont Alexandre got stuffed by The New One!

“I think we’ll keep our feet on the ground. He’s a silly price. That being said, I can’t believe how positive the reports are from home, he did a piece of work that was very good and it’s all systems go.

“He’ll go on any ground and we go there with confidence, but also recognising it’s a very tough race.”