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Douvan headlines 28 entries, the second-highest level since 2009, for the £350,000 Grade One Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on the second day of The Festival, Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 15.
Douvan, owned by Susannah Ricci and trained by Ireland's champion Jump handler Willie Mullins, is the 4/9 favourite with the sponsor Betway for the two-mile chasing championship as he goes for a third consecutive success at The Festival.
Unbeaten in 12 outings since joining Mullins, the French import landed the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle impressively in 2015 and last year defeated Sizing John (Jessica Harrington, 33/1) comfortably by seven lengths in the Racing Post Arkle Chase. His unbeaten streak was extended to 13 at Leopardstown over Christmas when he took his Grade One tally to eight.
Mullins has also entered last year's runner-up and 2015 Racing Post Arkle Chase victor Un De Sceaux (12/1), who captured the G1 Tingle Creek Chase gamely by a length at Sandown Park in December, Champagne Fever (33/1), Black Hercules (40/1)and Vroum Vroum Mag (25/1).
Fox Norton (Colin Tizzard, 7/1) is one of the leading British-trained hopes for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase after an impressing on his debut for new connections in the G2 Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November. He is joined by stablemates Sizing Granite (50/1) and Viconte Du Noyer (66/1).
Gloucestershire handler Tom George has two contenders for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase in God's Own (20/1) and Sir Valentino (40/1). God's Own, who also holds an entry in the Ryanair Chase, was fourth last year before going on to top-level triumphs in the Melling Chase at Aintree and two-mile Champion Chase at Punchestown. The nine-year-old kept on strongly behind Un De Sceaux on his latest start when a length and a quarter third in the Tingle Creek Chase.
Sir Valentino finished fifth to Un De Sceaux at Sandown Park, having just beaten Garde La Victoire (Philip Hobbs, 40/1) on his reappearance in the G2 Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter in November. The progressive eight-year-old went down by half a length to Special Tiara (Henry de Bromhead IRE, 25/1) in the G2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park over Christmas.
George said: "God's Own is fine. He has had a winter break and we are just starting away again with him now. I would say it is more than likely that he will go straight to Cheltenham. We haven't made any concrete plans but that is the way it is looking.
"He has got entries in the Champion Chase and Ryanair Chase just to give us options really. He proved he stays at Aintree last spring and it makes sense to have both entries.
"Sir Valentino has also had a little break and we will start building him up again. He is improving all the time and it was a great run against Special Tiara giving him six pounds. There isn't an apparent reason why he has improved so much. We have just given him plenty of time and he has kept stepping up."
Other notable entries for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase include exciting novice Altior (Nicky Henderson, 7/1), who is the ante-post favourite for the Racing Post Arkle Chase, and the Gary Moore-trained 2014 winner Sire De Grugy (33/1) and Ar Mad (16/1), second and fourth in the Tingle Creek Chase. Moore's third entry is Traffic Fluide (40/1).
Britain's champion Jump trainer Paul Nicholls relies on 2015 victor Dodging Bullets (50/1).
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase - Betway prices: 4/9 Douvan; 7/1 Fox Norton; 12/1 Un De Sceaux; 16/1 Ar Mad; 20/1 God's Own; 25/1 Special Tiara, Vroum Vroum Mag; 33/1 Champagne Fever, Sire De Grugy, Sizing John, Uxizandre; 40/1 Black Hercules, Garde La Victoire, Simply Ned, Sir Valentino, Tell Us More, The Game Changer, Traffic Fluide; 50/1 Alisier d'Irlande, Dodging Bullets, L'Ami Serge, Sizing Granite, Vaniteux; 66/1 Eastlake, Royal Regatta, Viconte du Noyer; 100/1 Just Cameron
Cue Card among 48 entries for Ryanair Chase
Cue Card (Colin Tizzard) could bid for a second victory in the £300,000 Grade One Ryanair Chase on the third day of The Festival, St Patrick's Thursday, March 16. The 11-year-old ran away with the near two-mile, five-furlong contest in 2013 when thrashing First Lieutenant by nine lengths, and has since established himself as one of Britain's leading staying chasers.
He fell at the third last when going strongly in the 2016 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, losing the chance of both glory and the £1-million bonus offered by Jockey Club Racecourses for the Chase Triple Crown. Cue Card captured his third G1 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November before chasing home impressive stablemate Thistlecrack in the G1 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton Park over Christmas. Colin Tizzard's five entries also include French import Alary, who is yet to run for the stable and is entered in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup like Cue Card, G2 Shloer Chase victor Fox Norton, Sizing Granite and Viconte Du Noyer. The last three also hold entries in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Willie Mullins accounts for seven of the 18 Irish-trained entries. The septet features hot Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase favourite Douvan, dual Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam, 2015 Racing Post Arkle Chase victor Un De Sceaux and the star mare Vroum Vroum Mag.
Among Henry de Bromhead's three contenders is Down Royal G1 scorer Valseur Lido, runner-up last year when trained by Willie Mullins, while Gordon Elliott has course and distance scorer Empire Of Dirt and Outlander in his three entries. Other possibles include Uxizandre (Alan King), off the course since winning the 2015 Ryanair Chase, French-trained Vezelay (Emmanuel Clayeux FR), third on his British debut in the Betfair Chase, BetVictor Gold Cup scorer Taquin De Seuil (Jonjo O'Neill) and Ar Mad (Gary Moore).
The 48-strong entry represents the joint third-highest level of entries in the history of the Ryanair Chase, founded in 2005.