Super-sub Paul Townend is eagerly awaiting his chance to partner Douvan in the Tingle Creek at Sandown on Saturday.
With Ruby Walsh out injured courtesy of a broken leg, Townend is the first-choice rider at Willie Mullins’ yard for the foreseeable future and that means he’s getting plumb rides as the superstars of Closutton return to action.
He’s already enjoyed winning the Morgiana Hurdle on Faugheen and this weekend he’ll hope to cement a winning return for another Rich Ricci-owned ace when Douvan tackles the famous Railway fences at Sandown.
Townend has ridden Douvan three times before – they are unbeaten together and have won by a combined tally of 48 lengths in those three starts – and he is understandably excited at the prospect of getting on the 4/5 favourite in the Tingle Creek, a race he believes is tailor-made for such a professional jumper.
“I’ve been lucky enough to ride him three times before and he has given me an amazing feel on each occasion,” Townend said.
“The chase track at Sandown can be a great place to ride around or a horrible place to ride around. It depends what you’re on. It’s not the most enjoyable experience if you’re on a dodgy jumper – the fences come thick and fast, especially the Railway fences down the back.
“You’d like to think that Sandown is the perfect place for Douvan. He has always been a brilliant jumper and hasn’t put a foot wrong so far. Let’s hope that continues on Saturday.”
Fox Norton, second in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and winner of the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham last month represents the biggest danger to Douvan, according to the early betting, with Colin Tizzard’s charge rated a 2/1 chance.
Paul Nicholls has won more Tingle Creeks than any other trainer (nine) and he fires Haldon Gold Cup winner and 7/1 chance Politologue this weekend.
Douvan lost his air of invincibility in March but, with a valid reason subsequently diagnosed, Townend says he’s entitled to be forgiven that Cheltenham run.
“You have to remember they’re not machines, they’re racehorses and injuries can be picked up,” he said.
“Hopefully he’s over his injury worries now and, from what I’ve seen of him at home, he certainly seems to be. Let’s hope he can get back on track.”
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