Mullins delight after Douvan makes winning return at Clonmel

He's back! Douvan proved worth the wait on his return from almost 19 months off in the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase, with the superstar chaser giving Willie Mullins reason to believe his National Hunt giant is on his way back to the top.

The dual Cheltenham Festival hero was a little ring-rusty at some of his fences on his way to a nine-and-a-half-length success over Jett, but over the course of the 2m4½f contest, Douvan produced some breathtaking leaps and showed plenty of his old sparkle, a view his delighted trainer echoed.

"He looked like the old Douvan today, to me," said the champion trainer of his eight-time Grade 1 winner.

"I was happy just to get here and run him. If he finished second or third, it'd be something we could build on. He did way more today than I expected."

Winning rider Paul Townend, who was also effusive in his praise for some of the nine-year-old's top-notch jumping, said: "He's deadly, isn't he? He made a mistake early, we were just trying to slow him down a bit. It's brilliant to get on his back again."

There was market confidence behind the Rich Ricci-owned star, sent off 4-5 favourite after opening at 11-8 in the ring, and afterwards Mullins thought that dropping back in trip could see him to best effect.

"He didn't look that he needed to go up in trip. I would have thought to come back in trip," he said after Douvan's first outing beyond 2m1f.

"Paul just said in a more competitive two-and-a-half-mile race he'd be fine, but to me he looks to have a lot of the speed that he had before. I wouldn't be looking for three miles now after that performance."

He added of the manner in which the French-bred picked up in the straight: "I loved that. I didn't know whether he was getting tired or not, but when Paul got off him he said he was just idling and had plenty in the tank.

"I'm much happier now than I have been at any stage over the last 569 days."

The gallant Jett, trained by Jessica Harrington, responded well to Robbie Power's urgings to finish a clear second in the €75,000 contest, while Monalee couldn't quite land a telling blow on his return from almost 200 days off in third.

Tout Est Permis cut out much of the early running but couldn't sustain his prominent effort when Douvan took over on the final circuit, while Peregrine Run, last of the quintet to complete, was unsuited by the testing going at the Tipperary venue.

The Closutton trainer was keen to let the dust settle on the 15-time winner's Clonmel victory before establishing future plans, although Leopardstown's Christmas festival could be on the agenda.

"I'd imagine it'll be Christmas for his next run," said Mullins, who also has leading Champion Chase hope Chacun Pour Soi in his team.

"We have to see how he comes out of the race over the next few days and Chacun Pour Soi has yet to run. I'm not making any plan. I'm just delighted he put in that performance today."

Paddy Power shortened Douvan to 12-1 (from 33) for the Ryanair Chase, while the former leading novice is now between 10-1 and 14-1 for the Champion Chase, having been available at 33-1 beforehand.