Douvan back on Sunday but Walsh goes for Djakadam

Douvan and Paul Townend teamed up for victory at Aintree in April

PICTURE: Getty Images Douvan heads for Cork with Townend riding
By Peter Scargill 11:12AM 9 DEC 2016

DOUVAN makes his eagerly awaited return to action at Cork on Sunday but he will do so without Ruby Walsh, who heads to Punchestown to ride Djakadam in the John Durkan Chase.

Walsh had said earlier this week how tricky a choice it would be to choose between the Susannah and Rich Ricci-owned pair and has come down on the side of the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup second.

In his absence, Paul Townend, who rode Douvan to victory at Aintree, will ride the unbeaten six-year-old in the Grade 2 Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase at Cork, for which he was one of eight declared.

Douvan had been the subject of a plunge in the betting before the Tingle Creek Chase but was not declared as stablemate Un De Sceaux went to Sandown instead.

Mullins has a near-faultless record in the Hilly Way Chase over the past nine years, winning eight runnings of the contest and finishing third with Blazing Tempo in the only season he has not claimed victory.

Where next?

Which way Douvan goes after the 2m1f chase on Sunday will be the subject of much debate, with the six-year-old 10-1 for the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton later this month over 3m.

The Susannah and Rich Ricci-owned star is 4-6 for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, 12-1 for the Ryanair Chase and 25-1 for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Days Hotel, the only non-Mullins winner of the Hilly Way Chase in the last nine years, leads the seven rivals along with The Game Changer, Mozoltov, Vukovar, Fine Rightly, Gilgamboa and Ludo Et Emergo.

John Durkan decs

In Sunday's other highlight, dual Cheltenham Gold Cup second Djakadam takes on four others in the Grade 1 John Durkan Chase at Punchestown.

A 12-1 chance for this season's Cheltenham Gold Cup, Djakadam will take on his stablemates Black Hercules and Alelchi Inois.

Sub Lieutenant, unbeaten in two starts for Henry de Bromhead, and Outlander, a former Mullins inmate, complete the field at Punchestown.

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