Clan Des Obeaux bids to cement his Cheltenham Gold Cup claims with victory in the rescheduled Betfair Denman Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
Trainer Paul Nicholls has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds the seven-year-old and following a promising seasonal reappearance when fourth in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, he secured the Ditcheat maestro a record 10th triumph in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
He is a best-priced 10-1 to provide the 10-times champion trainer with what would be a joint-record fifth victory in the blue riband at Prestbury Park next month – following the previous triumphs of See More Business (1999), Kauto Star (2007 and 2009) and Denman (2008).
And those odds are likely to contract further if he runs out an impressive winner of this recognised Gold Cup trial, which was saved from last weekend’s abandoned fixture at Newbury.
Nicholls said: “The King George was no fluke and he beat good horses. If he copes with Cheltenham I’m sure he has a great chance, but we have got to get over Saturday first.
“His improvement from Haydock to Kempton was enormous. Harry (Cobden) had a great feel off him at Haydock as he said straight away he would ride him in the King George. He went there and travelled well and jumped well. He jumped two out with his ears pricked and won very nicely.
“Everything about him home is coming on physically and mentally and we are thrilled with him. He is seven now and he showed he can do what we thought he could do at Kempton.”
With connections of last season’s Gold Cup hero Native River deciding against running at Ascot, Clan Des Obeaux’s task appears significantly more straightforward than it would have been at Newbury a week ago.
His biggest threat appears to be Nicky Henderson’s Terrefort, who bounced back from a disappointing first run of the season at Sandown to finish a creditable third behind the Nicholls-trained Frodon in Cheltenham’s Cotswold Chase three weeks ago.
Henderson said: “He ran very well at Cheltenham and I’d like to think he would improve on that.
“Everything went wrong at Sandown in the intermediate chase and in many ways his last race was like his first race of the season.
“This race was a little bit of an afterthought, but we stuck him as it was likely to cut up and it has after Colin (Tizzard) decided not to run Native River.”
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyhill and Tom Lacey’s Thomas Patrick complete a four-strong field.