WILLIE Mullins’ Cheltenham record has very few blemishes, yet the Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.30pm) has evaded his grasp so far.
That should change this afternoon. They say there’s no such thing as a certainty in racing, but the unbeaten Douvan is as near to one as you will ever find.
Unbeaten in 13 starts for Mullins, the son of Walk In The Park is bidding for his Festival hat-trick, having already won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Arkle.
He has been at his imperious best this season, but he’s as short as 1/4 with most bookmakers.
If you do want to back him, or any of Mullins’ horses today, 188BET are going best price on all of the Irish trainer’s runners.
For the purposes of this column, though, it’s worth looking at the ‘without Douvan market’, and in particular GOD’S OWN for Tom George.
The nine-year-old ran really well in this race last year, finishing fourth behind Sprinter Sacre, Un De Sceaux and Special Tiara.
He then went on to beat the ill-fated Vautour in Grade One contests at both Aintree and Punchestown.
Regular readers will already have backed him each-way at 20/1, but I wouldn’t put anyone off taking the 3/1 with Paddy Power and Sky Bet without Douvan.
Fox Norton is a danger, as he bids to make it four successive Cheltenham victories, although he met with a setback ahead of the Tingle Creek.
He was well beaten by Altior in the Game Spirit last month and doesn’t have the Grade One form of Gods Own.
Special Tiara was beaten less than four lengths into third in this race 12 months ago and will love the drying conditions.
The worry is that he’s a free-going sort and Douvan could just break his heart as he comes sauntering past him turning for home.
There is also a nagging doubt that he just hasn’t seemed the horse of old this season.
Garde La Victoire is a decent horse on his day, but perhaps not quite up to this level.
However, Richard Johnson may well ride him to pick up the pieces and he isn’t the worst each-way bet at 33/1.
God’s Own e/w and w/o Douvan 3.30pm Cheltenham
BEHIND ENEMY LINES Jeff Parkes, 188BET
Why are we shortest about Taquin Du Seuil? (Coral Cup 2.50pm)
A ridiculously competitive handicap hurdle where any number could be fancied.
Taquin Du Seuil made his seasonal debut over hurdles this year in a good handicap at Chepstow back in October.
He was held up out the back and given a quiet ride that day, eventually staying on nicely to come through to finish a never nearer sixth.
Ballyoptic was the winner that day off a mark of 148 and has since proved himself to be top class.
Moreover, Taquin Du Seuil subsequently won a very good handicap chase at Cheltenham off a mark of 156.
His mark of 148 here means we’ll be keeping him onside.
Why are we biggest about Whisper? (RSA Chase 2.10pm)
After a quiet year last year, Nicky Henderson’s Whisper has come roaring back this season.
He has already had two solid wins at Cheltenham this campaign which have teed him up nicely for this.
However, both of those victories were at 2m5f and today’s extended three miles may stretch his stamina.
Only at the easier Aintree track has the nine-year-old stayed that distance and with Acapella Bourgeois forcing the pace here, this will be no stroll in the park.
We’ll take Whisper on today.