Mullins cautious but is hopeful over Douvan
Just over two weeks to the start of the Cheltenham Festival and Willie Mullins opened his doors to the racing media yesterday and unsurprisingly the biggest talking points were Douvan and Faugheen.
The former we've not seen on a racecourse yet this season, the latter we've seen wow us in the early part of the campaign but bomb out since. The vibes were certainly more positive regarding both yesterday.
"Douvan is doing everything right. He has a good few bits of work to do this week and he has to go for the Champion Chase, all being well. So far all is well," the champion trainer said.
An new injury developed with Douvan prior to him running in the Tingle Creek earlier this season and the prognosis was initially season ending. However, Douvan became sound much quicker than expected and Mullins admitted: "Sometimes vets are like doctors and can be ultra cautious and you could end up running a hospital rather than a training yard so we had to kick on.
"We just got to the stage where we kept going further and further, faster and faster with him, and we haven't had any setbacks since. It's just day to day with him. There obviously was something there with him, but it looks like something he can live it."
Mullins is being so cautious that Douvan is unlikely to school over fences again before the Champion Chase and to make this scenario worse, Douvan's injury arose the morning after the horse reportedly did a sensational piece of work.
"He did a bit of work and I just thought to myself 'this is awesome' and the following morning he was lame. Whether he'll ever get back to that level, I don't know, but his work is good enough at the moment."
The trainer added "it is a concern" that he is likely to meet Altior in a championship race at Cheltenham without a run and while that is a clash that we can all look forward to, Mullins is just concentrating on getting Douvan to Wednesday fortnight's Champion Chase.
"The clash with Altior should be exciting but I just hope I can get him back into the form he was in in November. Altior looked fantastic at Newbury and it should be a clash to savour if we get there."
Min is also Champion Chase bound, while Yorkhill would look likely to join Melon and Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle.
Mullins admits that Faugheen wouldn't have to return to his very best to possibly stand a chance of winning the race this year but will need to recapture better form than he showed when second to Supasundae at the Dublin Racing Festival.
He didn't rule it out. "After Leopardstown the last day I started thinking the run wasn't as bad as I initially thought and it could be a building block for the middle of March or April.
"We haven't gone downhill at home anyway, we are going up. Maybe a little slower than usual but he's improving all the time."