Willie Mullins has reportedly announced that Douvan, not seen since sustaining a pelvic injury in last year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, will run in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, rather than the Champion Chase.
The Racing Post Twitter account stated:
“Willie Mullins has told the Racing Post that Douvan will run in the Ryanair Chase and not the Betway Champion Chase against Min after a decision was made to keep the two Rich Ricci-owned start apart.”
However, a full 21 days before April Fool’s Day, the Racing Post then Tweeted a retraction, stating:
“Clarification on earlier tweet re Douvan. Willie Mullins has stressed that no final decision has been made on his target, but that the Ryanair Chase is being seriously considered. Apologies for the miscommunication.”
Speaking on Racing UK’s Luck On Sunday programme, owner Rich Ricci said: “Douvan coming back at all is a massive ask, particularly in a red-hot Champion Chase.
“The Ryanair has cut up fairly badly and we just thought it was worth considering going a different route.
“I had a chat with Willie yesterday and we’re open to the idea. It’s no secret I like to split my horses – why fire two bullets at the same race if you don’t have to?
“Un De Sceaux is a very worthy favourite (for the Ryanair) and it would still be a big ask of Douvan, but it’s certainly worth considering and we agreed we’d sleep on it and kick it around further.
“We’ve got until Monday morning to make up our minds and we’ll take all the time we need.”
The decision to potentially switch races will not be universally popular, but Ricci defended his position.
“Things change. The Ryanair has cut up – there’s not going to be many runners at all, I don’t think – and it would be silly not to reconsider,” he added.
“We left the horses in the races and so many bookmakers are non-runner no-bet. The reaction I’ve seen is fair and pretty balanced.
“There may be the occasional person having a go, but we’ve kept our options and we’ll have to see where we get to.”