DOUVAN'S name was among the pleasant surprises as the entries for the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park on Saturday were revealed this afternoon.
Absent since losing his unbeaten record for trainer Willie Mullins in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham last year, Douvan is one of 10 entries for the big race in which he could face a fascinating clash with the Jessica Harrington-trained Our Duke.
There is a definite Cheltenham feel to the action at the Co Kilkenny venue with Presenting Percy among the possible runners for the feature event, and dual Grade 1 winning novice Bacardys given an entry for the pick of the supporting card, the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle.
But it is the potential clash of Douvan and Our Duke that everyone will want to see. The Cooper Family Syndicate’s Our Duke, the runaway winner of the BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, would be making a quick reappearance after taking fourth place behind Edwulf in the Grade 1 Unibet Irish Gold Cup at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown earlier this month.
Trained by Jessica Harrington, the eight-year-old is on-course for the Timico Gold Cup at Cheltenham and might well renew rivalry with Henry De Bromhead’s Valseur Lido, a place behind him at Leopardstown.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins enters two more with Douvan for the €45,000 event: he has last year’s winner Ballycasey and Bellshill which, like Douvan, has not run since the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, where he finished third behind Might Bite in the RSA Novices’ Chase.
Adding intrigue is an entry for one of the young chasing stars of the season, Presenting Percy, the ante-post favourite for the RSA Novices’ Chase next month. The winner of two of his three starts over fences, the seven-year-old won the Grade 2 John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park on Goffs Thyestes day on his last start.
Successful in the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, Mick Jazz heads an entry of 12 for the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle ahead of his bid for the Unibet Champion Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival. Tombstone gave trainer Gordon Elliott his first win in this race 12 months ago and he too is among the entries once again along with The Game Changer. While Elliott has three entries, Willie Mullins has put four in the €45,000 event headed by Bacardys and Lagostovegas.
Gareth Connolly, Sales and Marketing Director, Connolly’s Red Mills, said: “The Red Mills race day celebrates our longstanding tradition of racing at Gowran Park. Gowran is a valuable resource to the local area and this very special occasion gives us the opportunity to meet with, and thank, many of our valued customers. The Red Mills race day is a big part of the Irish road to Cheltenham and has produced some incredible winners over the years. We are very proud of this association and having seen the entries we’re looking forward to another top-class renewal of the Red Mills Hurdle and the Red Mills Chase on Saturday.”