After a period of the usual whispered rumours, the return of Douvan is confirmed for Sandown Park on Saturday coming, for the Grade 1 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase. Installed as the 4/5 favourite with sponsors Betfair, the 7yo gelding is clearly very strongly fancied to resume winning ways.
Even in finishing a very disappointing 7th in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival back in March, Douvan still ran to an RPR of 162 and wasn’t disgraced in the scheme of things. But this was not the bullet proof and domineering steeplechaser National Hunt fans had come to admire so widely in the races leading up to this moment of seeming destiny -- he was off. And it was evident after no more than a couple of hundred yards.
Douvan is a special horse though, when at his best and you’d have to admire the decision of Rich Ricci & Willie Mullins to completely lay off the horse after Cheltenham and give him the full summer off. He is still only seven.
If you wanted to pick holes and be negative about his chances first time out, particularly at odds-on, you could play on the fact that for much of his 2m career, he was beating up Sizing John, who turned out to be running over a trip ten furlongs too short all along. You could pick holes in his couple of wins over the now regressive The Game Changer (and Fox Norton, a vastly different proposition now, in the opposite direction), you could also mention the fact that Douvan himself had his form regress by 8lb (on RPRs) on each of his two starts after (arguably) peaking when landing the Grade 1 Paddy Power Chase in December of 2016. Paul Townend wouldn’t have the experience of Ruby Walsh on the horse, or at a demanding track in one of the top 2 or 3 two mile chases on the calendar.
With the likes of Un De Sceaux and Fox Norton providing legitimately top class rivals on Saturday, along with the improving youngster Politologue looking menacing at 11/2 in the market for Paul Nicholls, this has the feel of the 2004 renewal, when the returning Moscow Flyer had it all to prove against a stern home defence, most notably the naturally gifted Azertyuiop and of course Martin Pipe’s brilliant Well Chief; with Politologue assuming the role of the latter in this case, for all he has more to prove.
The Tingle Creek has produced so many memorable performances down the years and is the start of Christmas for many. A polystyrene cup (or 3) of half decent mulled wine, a lovely salt beef sandwich, some top class jumping fare, not to mention a highly festive atmosphere make Sandown Park a must-go for racing fans. It is the perfect meeting to both whet the appetite and set the tone for a mouth-watering Festive Period through the last week of December and there is no doubt that if Douvan jumps the last in front at around 3pm on Saturday afternoon, he will raise the roof at Sandown Park and certainly bring some Christmas Cheer for us to harness and enjoy in the coming weeks.
Unless you back another horse in the Tingle Creek...but that’s another story...but why would you? Douvan will win, won't he!?
Check out are our free tips every day for a selection in every race and if that’s not enough, our News + Tipping blogs will have loads of tips and previews for all the major racing action for the weekend!