SIR Alex Ferguson hopes to make a winning start to 2017 – at Cheltenham races.
His classy Clan Des Obeaux, the mount of Sam Twiston-Davies, heads the field for the BetBright Dipper Novices’ Chase on New Year’s Day.
A race that was won 12 months ago by Sandy Thomson’s Seeyouatmidnight from subsequent RSA Chase hero Blaklion, the Paul Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux could not have been more impressive when winning at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting last month,
Subsequent Grade One runner-up Virgilio could only get to within 10 lengths of Clan Des Obeaux as he never came out of second gear.
While connections would prefer softer ground, they head to Cheltenham full of confidence.
“I think we’d like to see a bit of rain for him,” said Nicholls’s assistant Harry Derham. “He’s in great form and had a school and was very good. It’s a Graded race at Cheltenham and they’re always strong races, but I don’t think any of us would swap our lad. He should run very well.”
Stablemates Whisper and O O Seven from the Nicky Henderson yard take each other on in the five-runner field.
Meanwhile, former World Hurdle winner Cole Harden reverts to smaller obstacles following a disappointing steeplechase debut at Wetherby when beaten by the Dan Skelton-trained Its’afreebee.
However, the drying ground should help the front-runner who means so much to trainer Warren Greatrex and jockey Gavin Sheehan.
“I think he was beaten by a good horse at Wetherby,” said Greatrex.
“The owners are going away from January 5 and there was no novice chase they wanted to go to, so we are going back over hurdles. It is only two-and-a-half miles, but he is in great nick.”