As the jumps season really comes to life, many horses have now had their seasonal debut or are about to have it. Two stars from Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins, both firm favourites with racing fans, have made their reappearance in the past week, and both have won on seasonal debut.
The first was the eagerly anticipated return of Douvan, a horse who won the Arkle at Cheltenham in breathtaking style back in 2016 when he looked to have the world at his feet. Injuries have prevented him from showing his best since then, but he came back with a win in the Clonmel Oil Chase recently, powering away from the field to win by over nine lengths.
This was a pretty solid field for the Grade Two contest, so Douvan deserves a lot of credit for how he won that day. Willie Mullins won’t have taken any chances with him, going into the race on the back of a 569-day absence, he will have been as fit as possible for the run.
The big question is where he goes next, and at what distance he runs at. It would be no surprise to see him remain at two and a half miles, with the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham being his ultimate target at the end of the season. Whether he comes back and has the same level of ability remains to be seen, and is unlikely, but he gave racegoers a great buzz when winning last week, and showed that he retains a lot of that ability, if not all of it.
The second victory came for Faugheen, a horse who has previously won a Champion Hurdle and has been sent novice chasing this season at the grand old age of 11. There are many against this, saying the horse should instead be allowed to retire to a field after what he has achieved in his career.
He didn’t jump too good either, making a few mistakes, which doesn’t help the case for him to stay chasing. His class saw him through at Punchestown, but when going up in grade and taking on better horses, he will have to improve on his form and jump a lot better.
That could happen of course, as this was just his first run over fences in public but as far as his novice chasing career goes, it is fair to say that it should currently be described as work in progress. This is a horse that many people love, and there will be a lot of interest surrounding where this horse goes next.
The expectation will be for him to run in another small novice chase somewhere, hopefully picking up a little more experience before moving up in grade, but this horse is expected to run in top grade events, which is why he has been kept in training so don’t be surprised if he does go up to graded racing very soon.
It has been another impressive week for Willie Mullins, and he has brought back two of his stable stars to win on their return to racing, the perfect start for two very popular horses.