Paul Townend is relishing the prospect of getting back aboard Douvan in Saturday’s Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park.
Trainer Willie Mullins had a few sleepless nights over which of his crack two-mile chasers to send over for the race, but it appears Douvan has been given the nod – with Un De Sceaux set to tackle the Hilly Way Chase at Cork the following day.
Douvan will be faced by a maximum of 10 rivals for the Grade One spectacular, and Townend is counting down the days to when he gets back on board the horse for the fourth time.
“It’s very exciting and I can’t wait to ride him again,” Townend told the Racing Post. “I’ve been lucky enough to ride him three times before and he has given me an amazing feel on each occasion.
“The chase track at Sandown can be a great place to ride around or a horrible place to ride around. It depends what you’re on. It’s not the most enjoyable experience if you’re on a dodgy jumper – the fences come thick and fast, especially the Railway fences down the back.
“You’d like to think that Sandown is the perfect place for Douvan. He has always been a brilliant jumper and hasn’t put a foot wrong so far. Let’s hope that continues on Saturday.”
When there were doubts about Douvan’s participation in the race, he could be backed at 9/4. He’s now 188BET’s market leader at 8/11 and even that would look a huge price if he returns in top shape.
The seven-year-old has to shrug off the disappointment of his odds-on defeat in the Queen Mother Champion Chase last term, but Mullins is convinced his charge is now over the fractured pelvis that prompted him to run so disappointingly.
If he is back to his bullish, bold-jumping, aggressive best – even the much-improved Fox Norton will have his work cut out to match strides with Douvan.
Trainer Colin Tizzard’s son and assistant Joe believes Fox Norton has improved for his winning return to action at Cheltenham and is ready to serve up a battle to Douvan.
“He’s had a lovely prep for the race since Cheltenham and he’s all set to run,” Tizzard told the Racing Post of his 5/2 second favourite. “It was a smashing performance at Cheltenham, you couldn’t help but be delighted with him and how he jumped and travelled. I’d say he’s even better now. All of ours improve for their first run, so hopefully he can show more again.”
Throw Paul Nicholls’ dashing grey Politologue into the mix, a 6/1 shot with 188BET, and those who make their way to Esher on Saturday could be in for a treat with three bold jumpers duelling on Sandown’s two-mile chased track.