Willie Mullins reveals reasons behind Douvan’s poor performance in Champion Chase

Ruby Walsh riding Douvan after finishing down the field in the Champion Chase

Ruby Walsh riding Douvan after finishing down the field in the Champion Chase

Trainer Willie Mullins believes an injury may be the reason behind hot-favourite Douvan’s failure to place in the Champion Chase on Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival.

Mullins thinks there will be extenuating factors behind Douvan's meek performance in seventh place.

The trainer said: "He was clearly never going and I thought at the top of the hill he'd do very well to win.

"I'm assuming something happened when he put in those huge jumps, which I've never seen him do before.

"I imagine I'll find a physical problem with him.

"Ruby (Walsh) said he didn't jump like he normally does and when I saw him jump the first couple of fences, I knew he couldn't get away with it in a Champion Chase.

"I'd been hoping he's my best ever and it's my job to try and get him back if I can.

"Ruby said he didn't feel like he was moving well behind and I imagine we'll find a problem."

Ahead of the race, all eyes were on the Mullins-trained Douvan, the brilliant seven-year-old who had won 14 races on the spin and was sent off the 2-9 favourite.

But after having jumped a little too exuberantly in places, he looked in serious trouble two fences from home – and so it proved.

Whereas Douvan retreated, eventually finishing down the field, the front-running Special Tiara (11-1) kept up an honest gallop under Noel Fehily and gamely fended off Fox Norton by a head.

Fehily, who won the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, said: "Unbelievable. He's such a great ride, he's everything a two-mile chaser should be. He's a very good horse.

"I didn't (think we'd beat Douvan), but I thought I had a great chance of being second. I got over the last and was surprised something hadn't come to me, but I knew he wasn't stopping.

"He has one way of running and that's flat to the mat and jump – I just let him get on with it.

"I've always loved two-mile chasers, the Champion Chase is the one you want to win. To win it is fantastic."

Winning trainer Henry de Bromhead said: "It's an amazing day, I'm just so pleased for everyone involved.

"He seemed in great form coming into it, but it was hard to believe (could win) with Douvan and everything else – Douvan had looked so good.

"For our lad, he just tries his heart out and no-one deserves it more.

"I thought he jumped the slickest he's ever jumped. Often he jumps a bit high. Incredible.

"Any day you win a Grade One at Cheltenham is just an amazing day."

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