Two of Willie Mullins’ Cheltenham heroes have shock entries in Ireland this weekend ahead of next month’s Festival at Prestbury Park.
Douvan and Vroum Vroum Mag, both owned by the influential Rich Ricci, looked set to miss this National Hunt season, yet have been declared to run at Gowran Park on Saturday, causing punters to act accordingly by backing them both for March’s racing calendar highlight.
2016 Arkle winner Douvan hasn’t been seen on a racecourse since losing his unbeaten tag last year in the Queen Mother Champion Chase when sent of 2/9 favourite. Injuries had seemingly threatened to end the career of one of racing true stars of recent years, so all eyes will be on the 8-year-old if he does run in Saturday’s Red Mills Chase.
Given that he is entered to run over 2m 4f, a return to the Champion Chase looks unlikely, especially as stablemate Min, who is also owned by Ricci, is all set for a mouth-watering showdown with Altior. The longer Ryanair Chase is the likely target should he come through Saturday’s test, and some bookmakers have been quick to clip his price in that market.
Since the news broke 73% of bets on the Ryanair market have been on Douvan, and punters aren’t missing a beat on Vroum Vroum Mag either, with 91% of bets in the Mares Hurdle on Mullins’ 9 year-old.
That’s seen her odds half from 14/1 to 7/1 in what would be a dream return.
Oddschecker spokesperson George Elek said: “She was beaten in a thriller by Apple’s Jade last year but, with her victory is as short as 4/7 to repeat the trick, and punters are tucking into the double figure prices still on offer.
“Like Douvan, there must be question marks as to whether she retains the ability that saw her win the race in 2016, so all eyes will be on Gowran Park and the Mullins duo this weekend, where two commanding performances would see more major market movement ahead of March 13th.”