Douvan named top horse

Douvan has been named as the best jumps horse in Britain and Ireland for the 2016/17 despite his failure at Cheltenham.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and the Irish Turf Club confirmed the Willie Mullins-trained chaser achieved a rating of 174 for his eight-length defeat of subsequent, Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John (169) in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Cashcard Chase at Leopardstown.

His rating of 174 puts him level with the likes of Big Zeb and Azertyuiop in the pantheon of top 2-mile chasers since the commencement of the Classifications, but marginally behind last year’s champion 2-mile Chaser Sprinter Sacre (175).

Thistlecrack and Altior, the two novice chasers who have lit up the 2016/17 season with their exploits, topped their respective categories with ratings of 170. Only Coneygree, rated 172 after his Gold Cup winning season in 2014/15, earned a higher rating at 3-miles-plus in the history of the Classifications.

Many Clouds (171) and Fox Norton (169) complete the list of older champions over fences. The former earned that rating for his defeat of Thistlecrack in the BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January, making him the highest rated 3-mile-plus Chaser for the 2016/17 season despite the fact that he sadly lost his life shortly after this race.

Fox Norton earned his rating with a six-length victory in the JLT Melling Chase at Aintree last month, part of a magical four-timer of Grade 1 contests at the Randox Health Grand National Festival for jockey Robbie Power.

Over hurdles it is a one-horse story, with the Nicky Henderson trained Buveur D’Air ending the season as the champion at 2 miles and 2 ½-mile-plus. He was rated 167 for his four-and-a-half-length defeat of My Tent Or Yours in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, whilst his five length defeat of the same horse over four furlongs further at Aintree earned him a rating of 169.

The novice hurdlers were topped by the enigmatic Labaik, who earned a rating of 161, seeing him on a par with the likes of Douvan, Faugheen, Jezki and Our Conor as the highest rated horses at 2 miles since the classifications began.

Phil Smith, Head of Handicapping for the BHA, said: “The most significant aspect last season was the aggressive and successful way the top novice chasers were campaigned. The number of novice chasers included at 140+ was up 18 compared with the previous season.

“Douvan, the previous season’s top novice, improved his rating from 169 to 174 thanks to a scintillating performance at Leopardstown at Christmas where he beat the future Gold Cup winner. That was Sizing John’s first run of the season and his only defeat and although he clearly improved for stepping up in trip, he is no slouch at 2 miles.”

David Dickinson, BHA Handicapper, said: “The decision to bring Buveur d’Air back from a novice chasing career proved a masterstroke, as his slick jumping of the smaller obstacles saw him run to a perfectly respectable Stan James Champion Hurdle winning figure of 167, a figure he improved on by a couple of pounds over two and a half miles at Aintree, with a more authoritative success over his luckless stable companion My Tent Or Yours.”

Martin Greenwood, BHA Handicapper, said: “Buveur d’Air on 169 also tops the staying division of the hurdlers, with his smooth Aintree success rated the best hurdle performance of the season over any distance. He is rated superior to Unowhatimeanharry and Nichols Canyon who both won at the big Festivals.

“For the novices, Presenting Percy and West Approach share the honours in the staying novice arena and both gained their 157, 4lbs higher than both Champagne Classic and Penhill who won at the Cheltenham Festival.”

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