Douvan could go in Ryanair Chase

Owner Rich Ricci has confirmed Douvan could sidestep the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday and instead run in the Ryanair Chase the following day.

The Willie Mullins-trained superstar has not been seen in competitive action since suffering a shock defeat and injury in last year’s Champion Chase, but the multiple Irish champion trainer had stated his intention to let the eight-year-old line up in the two-mile showpiece again alongside fellow Ricci-owned stable companion Min.

However, Mullins and his leading owner are now considering splitting their aces, with Douvan now set to take on another stablemate in Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair.

Speaking on Racing UK’s Luck On Sunday programme, Ricci said: “Douvan coming back at all is a massive ask, particularly in a red-hot Champion Chase.

“The Ryanair has cut up fairly badly and we just thought it was worth considering going a different route.

“I had a chat with Willie yesterday and we’re open to the idea. It’s no secret I like to split my horses – why fire two bullets at the same race if you don’t have to?

“Un De Sceaux is a very worthy favourite (for the Ryanair) and it would still be a big ask of Douvan, but it’s certainly worth considering and we agreed we’d sleep on it and kick it around further.

“We’ve got until Monday morning to make up our minds and we’ll take all the time we need.”

The decision to potentially switch races will not be universally popular, but Ricci defended his position.

“Things change. The Ryanair has cut up – there’s not going to be many runners at all, I don’t think – and it would be silly not to reconsider,” he added.

“We left the horses in the races and so many bookmakers are non-runner no-bet. The reaction I’ve seen is fair and pretty balanced.

“There may be the occasional person having a go, but we’ve kept our options and we’ll have to see where we get to.”

In light of the news, Bookmakers were quick to cut Douvan’s odds, and was cut into 11/4 from 4/1.

Douvan’s possible inclusion in the line-up has done nothing for the chances of other leading candidates, with Balko Des Flos pushed put to 6/1 from 4/1 and Cue Card now 7/1 from 6/1 for Colin Tizzard.

Lawrence Lyons, Spokesperson for BoyleSports commented: “The prospect of Douvan returning to take on stablemate Un De Sceaux could be one of the highlights of the coming week and they’re getting closer in the Ryanair betting now as it’s 6/4 and 9/4 for the Mullins pair at the head of affairs.”

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