Willie Mullins intends to make a late decision on Douvan and Un De Sceaux’s participation in Saturday’s Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and while Douvan would be impossible to take on with any confidence, Gary Moore’s Ar Mad remains an exciting prospect who can make his mark at the very top level this season.
Unbeaten in six starts over fences last season, including the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival, Douvan would certainly add plenty of interest to what already looks a strong renewal of the Tingle Creek. Still only a six-year-old he is widely expected to step up from novice company and once again take all before him and he would be very hard to beat if lining up. His stablemate Un De Sceaux was an odds-on favourite for last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase before bumping into a brilliantly rejuvenated Sprinter Sacre and while Douvan may be about to raise the bar in the two mile division he would still set a significant standard to beat.
However, while I wouldn’t be taking Douvan on, in his absence the Gary Moore-trained pair of Ar Mad and Sire De Grugy would be of significant interest. The trainer’s sons (brothers of Ryan Moore) are set to ride with Jamie booked for Sire De Grugy and Joshua for Ar Mad. The ever-popular Sire De Grugy delighted jumps fans when bouncing back to winning form for the first time in nearly a year in an Ascot handicap chase last month. A return to Grade 1 will prove a different test but he was probably close to getting back to somewhere near his best at Ascot and this is a race that clearly suits him having won the 2013 and 2015 renewals.
In contrast Ar Mad is in the infancy of his career and stepped up to every test in front of him in last season’s novice campaign. The six-year-old won the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase on this card before a win in the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices Chase at Kempton. He warmed up for the Arkle with an easy win at Plumpton before a leg fracture ruled him out of a clash with Douvan. All being well I’d take Ar Mad to improve past Sire De Grugy this season, his win on this card last season was five seconds quicker than his stablemate’s victory in this race and he remains a very exciting prospect. The one negative would be that he ran badly first up last campaign but that was his first run over fences and he subsequently improved out of all recognition. Reports suggest Ar Mad is fully fit and really pleasing connections at home and it’ll be exciting to see him back in action live on Sky Racing 1 on Saturday night.