The French-bred, Irish-trained Thoroughbred Douvan has seen his long winning run come to an end, after he finished seventh of ten in the Grade One Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Patrick Mullins, son of Douvan’s trainer Willie, had earlier described riding Douvan as like “driving a Ferrari”. Eleven-time Irish National Hunt Champion Jockey Ruby Walsh was booked to ride, and Douvan was aiming to make it fourteen wins from fourteen races since joining the Mullins yard.
Willie tweeted before the meeting that he was hoping the horse would hold his form and extend his winning run.
— Willie Mullins (@WillieMullinsNH) 15 March 2017
The thoroughbred had been successful in his previous two runs at the festival, winning the Supreme Novices Hurdle in 2015 and The Arkle Challenge Trophy last year.
He was well-backed and went off as 2/9 favourite. However, backers would have been worried throughout, as erratic jumping and a lack of his usual poise saw him struggling.
He was still in with a shout two from home but when Walsh pushed him for a challenge, the only movement he got was a backwards one.
As Douvan dropped down the field, Front-running 11/1 shot Special Tiara, ridden by Noel Fehily, held on for a momentous victory by a head to Fox Norton (7/1). Sir Valentino, the 33/1 outsider ridden by Paddy Brennan was a further six-lengths behind in third place.
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Twitter users were in disbelief after the race, wondering just what had happened to Douvan.
What the fuck happened with douvan ??
— Jordan Hargadon (@JordanHargadon) 15 March 2017
Douvan lost. Wait what.
— Joe Beattie (@justjoe_90) 15 March 2017
@Joe_Litchfield Gutted. I couldn’t see Douvan losing. It was a shock!
— Jess (@jhavfc) 15 March 2017
One punter will be extremely unhappy about Douvan’s poor performance after betting £500,000 on him winning.
Yesterday this bookie paid out on a £400,000 bet on Altior…
Today they’ve had a £500,000 bet from the same punter on Douvan! ?? pic.twitter.com/AvI4wJ2eVq
— BBC 5 live Sport (@5liveSport) 15 March 2017
Trainer Willie Mullins said after the race that his horse must be suffering from some sort of injury to have performed so badly. He said (via Sunday World):
“He was clearly never going and I thought at the top of the hill he’d do very well to win.
“I’m assuming something happened when he put in those huge jumps, which I’ve never seen him do before.
“I imagine I’ll find a physical problem with him.
“Ruby (Walsh) said he didn’t jump like he normally does and when I saw him jump the first couple of fences, I knew he couldn’t get away with it in a Champion Chase.
“I’d been hoping he’s my best ever and it’s my job to try and get him back if I can.
“Ruby said he didn’t feel like he was moving well behind and I imagine we’ll find a problem.”
Whilst everyone was cursing the poor run of Douvan, winning jockey Fehily was over the moon. After his victory, he said:
“Unbelievable. He’s such a great ride, he’s everything a two-mile chaser should be. He’s a very good horse.
“I didn’t (think we’d beat Douvan), but I thought I had a great chance of being second. I got over the last and was surprised something hadn’t come to me, but I knew he wasn’t stopping.”
Peter Reynolds, Pundit Arena