Douvan set to star if Punchestown survives frost threat

Douvan: pictured in full flight under Ruby Walsh

PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos) Punchestown must survive frost threat By David Jennings 6:15PM 4 FEB 2017

Preview: Punchestown, Sunday

BoyleSports Tied Cottage Chase (Grade 2) 2m, 5yo+

SOMETIMES you have to sit back and appreciate class – and Douvan is pure class.

Douvan's opponents on Sunday are unlikely to stop him making it 13 wins in a row since joining Willie Mullins, but the weather might.

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Punchestown's fixture is subject to an 8am inspection on raceday morning due to the threat of overnight frost and racing fans will be praying the meeting gets the go-ahead so they can catch a glimpse of a master at work. Douvan is racing's equivalent of seeing Van Gogh with a paintbrush in his hand. Our very own artist.

Punchestown clerk of the course Brendan Sheridan is optimistic of racing getting the green light. He said: "I spoke with the Met office and they expect temperatures to get down to -3C or maybe even -4C overnight, but hopefully temperatures will rise in time for racing to go ahead.

"We are optimistic and are just erring on the side of side of caution with the inspection."

Schooling session

Douvan, who has been flawless since joining Willie Mullins, looked as good as ever when posting Grade 1 win number eight in the Paddy Power Cashcard Chase at Leopardstown's Christmas festival. And Paddy Power make him 1-14 favourite to extend his winning sequence in a race in which he is rated at least 18lb superior to his rivals.

There is still over five weeks to go until the Queen Mother Champion Chase, yet Douvan is no bigger than 4-9 for glory and as short as 2-7 with some firms. He has taken the two-mile chasing division by storm and Sunday should be little more than a schooling session for the sublime seven-year-old.

"I'm just hoping he's as big a certainty as the bookmakers seem to think," said Mullins. "He does look to have an outstanding chance of making it nine from nine over fences at a track where he has raced three times for three wins, two over hurdles and, more recently, when winning a Grade 1 at the Punchestown festival."

He added: "He appears to be in very good form and all has been well with him since his win at Christmas. This race looked the obvious pre-Cheltenham target for him and, fingers crossed, all will go well."

'Douvan is a machine'

Smashing is sure to deploy his customary front-running role and, now that the rain has arrived and he will have his beloved deep ground, he could be harder to peg back than has been the case on his first few starts of the season.

Mouse Morris is well aware that disposing of Douvan is practically impossible but he does expect Smashing to produce an improved display now that conditions are finally in his favour.

"What can you say? Douvan is a machine and he will be very hard to beat, but Smashing will have his proper ground for the first time this season and he will relish that. He seems to be in good order at home since Thurles where he probably went off too quick and let's hope he can make a race of it," Morris said.

Tough task

Realt Mor has been a great servant to connections. He won the Grade 1 Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse back in March of 2013 but still looks to have retained some of his old sparkle judging by his comfortable success over hurdles at Thurles last month.

"He has been a great horse over the years and he is a Grade 1 winner so owes us nothing. It was great to see him bounce back and win over hurdles at Thurles and he has been in good form since. This, however, will be very tough with Douvan in there," Gordon Elliott said.

The quartet is completed by Draycott Place from the John Ryan stable.

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