DOUVAN defied a 569-day absence to win the Clonmel Oil Chase on his long-awaited return to action for Willie Mullins.
Once the highest-rated chaser in training, the Rich Ricci-owned gelding has been difficult to keep sound since picking up an injury in the 2017 Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Running for the first time since the Boylesports Champion Chase at Punchestown in April 2018, the nine-year-old was having his first try at two and a half miles in the hands of Paul Townend.
While he was suited by the race conditions in getting weight from each of his rivals, he travelled with his old elan and Townend eventually gave up the battle of trying to hold him and allowed him to stride on after halfway.
When he met a fence on a long stride he took lengths out of his rivals and although Monalee closed up before the turn for home, Townend had only given him a breather and Douvan strode clear in the straight.
His jump at the last was not perfect, but those who sent him off the 4/5 favourite never had much cause for concern.
Willie Mullins said: “At one or two stages last spring, I thought we might never get him back so today is huge.
“He’s in the King George but he showed me today that he’s going to be really competitive over two miles.”