Paul Nicholls is confident Clan Des Obeaux will put up a strong defence of his King George crown, following his pleasing comeback at Down Royal.
The winner of last season’s Boxing Day showpiece travelled to Northern Ireland in a bid to provide the Ditcheat trainer with a fourth victory in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase – but they had to make do with the runner-up spot behind Noel Meade’s Road To Respect.
Nicholls had already prioritised Kempton’s Ladbrokes King George VI Chase as Clan Des Obeaux’s major target for the first half of the season, and was delighted with the seven-year-old’s return on Saturday.
“He ran very well. The winner is obviously a specialist around there and is a very good horse,” he said.
“It has set him up nicely for the King George. I don’t want to go to Haydock for the Betfair Chase and give him a slog in the mud – because I want to win the King George again.
“There were no excuses, and we were thrilled with the run. But he will improve, and the King George will suit him better because they will go a proper gallop.
“I think he is a better horse this year and I’ve said that all along to the connections – physically he is a stronger horse, and there is improvement to come.”
Clan Des Obeaux’s regular partner Harry Cobden also feels the French-bred gelding can only benefit from having blown the cobwebs away over the weekend.
He said: “He definitely needed it, but he did everything right. He travelled well and jumped great, but the winner looked fit for its life. I’d say it was a good performance.
“He was so mature and he went down to the start like a real professional. There wasn’t too much different from last season, and now I just hope he can improve on it.
“I was definitely impressed and I would say he will come on a lot for Saturday. I think we will see an improved performance on his next start, wherever he runs.”