Dazzling Douvan to sparkle and keep the Arkle in Mullins’ hands
David Metcalf | March 14, 2016
Douvan can destroy Arkle rivals
Douvan looks a worthy red-hot favourite to provide trainer Willie Mullins with back-to-back successes in the Grade 1 Arkle Challenge Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival (14:10).
The County Carlow handler saddled Un De Sceaux to victory 12 months ago, and in Douvan has a gelding who is one of the most exciting prospects seen for a long time.
Deadly Douvan won all four of his starts last season after joining Mullins, and they included a breathtaking success in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at this meeting, with the six-year-old travelling powerfully throughout before showing a devastating turn of foot to out the race to bed.
Superb jumper with huge engine
Douvan had the potential to make up into a Champion Hurdle horse judged on the manner of that success, but connections decided to go down the chasing route and he has won all three of his stars this season over the larger obstacles in impressive fashion.
Following on from landing a minor contest at Navan on his seasonal reappearance by a wide margin without having to break sweat, Douvan has gone on to land two Grade 1 races at Leopardstown; the Racing Post Novice Chase and Irish equivalent of the Arkle in similarly stunning fashion.
This son of Walk In The park jumped brilliant on each occasion, has a huge engine and, granted a clear round, the Arkle Challenge Trophy should be Douvan’s for the taking.
Vaniteux the main danger
Nicky Henderson’s Vaniteux has won two of his three starts over fences, and looks the obvious one to take advantage if Douvan fails to live up to expectations.
A smart hurdler who has always been held in high regard, Vaniteux scored in terrific style on his chasing debut at Kempton – before losing little in defeat at the same venue, when beaten just a 1/4 of a length by Ar Mad after bad blunder at the first.
Vaniteux did well to get so close after that error seemed to unsettle him, and has since got back to winnings ways in the Grade 2 Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster.
Henderson yard has excellent Arkle record
The seven-year-old gelding looked set to win by a convincing margin when taking the third last, but had to be driven right out to score by 3 3/4 lengths in blustery conditions after idling on the run-in.
However, it was a solid performance in a race run in a good time and Vaniteux hails from a yard that have won this contest five times – with Henderson victoriously saddling two of the last four renewals.
Coral’s top tip: Douvan looks a cut above his Arkle rivals and a rock solid bet to maintain his unbeaten record. Vaniteux can give him most to think about.