Clonmel Oil Chase | 2m4½f | Grade 2 | 4yo+ | RTV
It is Douvan day at Clonmel. The two-time Cheltenham Festival winner, who was once the highest-rated chaser in training, makes his belated return to the track after an absence of 569 days and Willie Mullins says coming home sound is the primary objective. Winning would be a bonus according to the champion trainer.
We have only seen Douvan twice since he was beaten at odds of 2-9 in the 2017 Champion Chase due to a pelvic problem, but Mullins thinks he has the nine-year-old back in a good place.
Mullins said: "Clonmel is not the sort of place I envisaged Douvan going, but the conditions of the race suited. He seems to be in nice form at home but I just want to get him back out on the track and see how he is.
"It is nearly a victory already to have him back and in the sort of form he is in. It is great to be even getting him ready for this race.
"It is nice to start off in this type of a race rather than taking on fit horses at Leopardstown over Christmas or something like that. I want to get a run or two into him and hopefully he can stay sound and we can get him back to somewhere near his best."
He added: "We think he's going well. He looks very well at home but we have not been pressing too many buttons. We are just trying to keep the show on the road and get to the track with him. We have had a very clear run with him. He is against race-fit horses so I would be happy for him to come home sound and put up a good performance. If he wins, that will be a bonus."
It is certainly not a straightforward assignment for Douvan as he faces four creditable rivals, including Monalee, runner-up to Presenting Percy in the 2018 RSA Chase.
Henry de Bromhead believes soft ground brings out the best in Monalee and he will get his ideal conditions on his return to action.
"His win the Red Mills Chase at Gowran in February was the only time he got the soft ground he wants. I think anything from 2m4f to 3m suits him, but we’ll aim towards the Gold Cup and work away from there," De Bromhead said.
Monalee might have his ground, but one who does not is the summer-loving Peregrine Run.
"The ground is probably against him but he's in great form and he's very fit so we're hopeful," said trainer Peter Fahey. "This is a lovely race for him and hopefully he can run well."
Tout Est Permis has blossomed since joining Noel Meade and last year's Troytown winner is reported to be in rude health following his Punchestown comeback last month.
Meade said: "I was initially disappointed with him at Punchestown, but he was trying to give weight to most of the field. He made a mistake at the third-last and that knocked the stuffing out of him.
"He was a little bit undercooked going there too. He has to give 5lb to Douvan, which won’t be easy. I wouldn’t knock him yet, and I have to say he is in terrific shape at home."
The quality quintet is completed by Jett, who caused a 22-1 shock in a Grade 3 at Punchestown last time and should not be underestimated.