It remains to be seen if the four-year-old – co-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson – can reach the same heights as the Gold Cup and dual Hennessy hero, but the lightly-raced gelding put in a round of jumping above and beyond a novice.
After breezing past long-time leader Our Kaempfer over the third last, the 5-2 chance, who finished fourth on his debut over fences at Chepstow last month, barely moved out of second gear under jockey Sean Bowen to canter home by 10 lengths.
Clan Des Obeaux, who joins a roll of honour which also includes Bobs Worth and Coneygree, was introduced at 12-1 by Leeds-based William Hill for the JLT Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Nicholls said: “We knew he was good. Chepstow was only his fourth run over obstacles. He’s improved enormously and he’s really something to look forward to. At the end of the day, he is only four and we’ve got to be careful to look after him as this is not his season – he will be better at five and six.
“He takes your breath away jumping and if you have got a horse that jumps a fence like that, they are going to go places. Sean just said that is the best horse he has ever sat on.”
Meanwhile, Alan King expects to learn more about Sceau Royal’s capabilities by running him in the Grade One stanjames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle today. The four-year-old won three times for the Barbury Castle handler last season, but came up short when stepped up to the highest level in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and at Aintree.
However, he could not have been more impressive on his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham and having produced a similarly dominant performance in landing the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton, Sceau Royal gets another chance to prove his worth.
King hopes to discover whether his youngster is a realistic contender for the Champion Hurdle. “He’s in good form and we’re very happy with him,” said the trainer. “It’s an interesting race, but I think he deserves to be there. We’ll know more about his Champion Hurdle claims after the race. There’s Irish horses coming over so it will be a good test.”
Gigginstown House Stud claimed last year’s Fighting Fifth with Identity Thief and the leading owners are double-handed in this year’s renewal with Apple’s Jade and Petit Mouchoir.
Apple’s Jade produced one of the most visually impressive performances of last season when winning by 41 lengths at Aintree and comfortably followed up at Punchestown.
However the former Willie Mullins inmate suffered a short-priced reverse on her debut for Gordon Elliott in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal.
Connections initially suggested the filly would be stepped up in distance, but she remains at two miles with the more testing terrain expected to suit.