Willie Mullins is planning to keep a trio of his superstar jumpers in Ireland this Christmas rather than taking them to Kempton Park.
Both Douvan and Faugheen, who hold entries in the King George VI Chase and the Christmas Hurdle respectively, are deemed unlikely travellers along with Yorkhill, who is set to have a potential Gold Cup audition at Leopardstown.
Douvan missed last weekend’s Tingle Creek at Sandown, though Mullins has confirmed he did not miss a beat in terms of his homework. Rich Ricci’s seven-year-old is in fine tune now and should get the chance to make his seasonal reappearance in the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown on December 27.
“He is fine and hasn’t missed a day riding out. He just wasn’t right on the morning we had to declare him (for Sandown). We had ferries and bad weather, and it was his first run of the year sending him to England, and so, especially the way things happened, I didn’t want to run him,” Mullins told The Irish Times.
“If he wasn’t right when he got there someone else would have had to make a decision, because I wasn’t going to be in England, and that wouldn’t have been fair. So if in doubt, pull out. He’s riding out fine. We’re looking at Leopardstown for him. He could go up in trip but I imagine we will keep him at two miles.”
Douvan is 3/1 to secure Queen Mother Champion Chase glory at Cheltenham in March. Faugheen, meanwhile, is the 6/4 ante-post favourite to land a second Champion Hurdle gong in 2018 after his impressive winning reappearance in the Morgiana Hurdle last month.
He’s a two-time winner of the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton but Mullins suggest that race, and a potential clash with Champion Hurdler Buveur D’air, is not likely.
“Faugheen is entered in [the Ryanair Christmas Hurdle] and we’ll probably enter him at Kempton too. But I imagine we would prefer to stay at home. I think we’ll get him out at Christmas alright,” Mullins added.
Meanwhile, Yorkhill will tackle three-miles in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase, formerly known as the Lexus, as he attempts to play his way into the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture.
On his final start last term in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse, Yorkhill all but forfeited the race by jumping violently to his left and that is now a big consideration when choosing targets for Graham Wylie’s charge.
“Opportunities left-handed are a little harder to get for a horse like him. But Leopardstown at Christmas looks a good possibility,” said Mullins.
“His pedigree is all staying and I imagine he’ll go for the longer trip alright. I imagine that [the race formerly known as the Lexus] will be it. He fine and I’m happy with him.”
Yorkhill is currently 14/1 to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
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