PAUL NICHOLLS hopes history will repeat itself on Saturday when Clan Des Obeaux completes his Cheltenham Gold Cup preparations at Newbury.
The Nicholls-trained Kauto Star and Denman – two of the all-time greats – both won at the Berkshire track before landing steeplechasing’s ultimate prize in 2007 and 2008 respectively.
The double has subsequently been completed by Coneygree (2015) and defending champion Native River – and both could line up in Saturday’s Betfair-sponsored race that is run in honour of Denman, who excelled at Newbury.
But Nicholls is wary of Clan Des Obeaux, the winner of the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, getting in a protracted battle with the Colin Tizzard-trained Native River just five weeks before this year’s Gold Cup.
However, he is pleased with the form of the horse, co-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, following a successful schooling session under regular rider Harry Cobden.
“Clan Des Obeaux schooled this morning and jumped very well so we are looking forward to running him on Saturday,” said Nicholls.
“I didn’t really want to get into a scrap with Native River, but there are not any options for him and we have always done well running at Newbury and going on to the Gold Cup with Denman and Kauto Star.
“I think it’s hard for a horse to run at Kempton and then go in the Gold Cup and expect them to run their very best. I’ve always thought a prep run when they are going to improve will do them good.
“We’ve worked him away quietly, haven’t been that hard on him, he’s in good shape, but he will improve from Saturday to the Gold Cup.
“I can remember running Kauto Star in it and had a bit of a scare when he only just beat L’Ami and he just improved from there to go on and win the Gold Cup.
We’ve worked him away quietly, haven’t been that hard on him, he’s in good shape but he will improve from Saturday to the Gold Cup.Paul Nicholls
“You don’t want them at their best, but you want them fit enough to do themselves justice, which is where Clan Des Obeaux is at the moment.”
Nicholls added: “Native River is a Gold Cup winner who will be hard to beat. Colin (Tizzard) will have him fully wound up without a doubt because he will be wanting to win on Saturday.
“It’s going to be interesting. Everything about him at home, I think he is just beginning to become a proper horse, grown up mentally and physically. We are thrilled with him.”
Meanwhile Ruth Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently, last seen unseating Brian Hughes when hampered in the King George, and multiple Grade One winner Un De Sceaux feature among a strong entry for the Game Spirit Chase on the Newbury undercard.
The prospect of soft ground might sway Malton-based Jefferson, although the priority has always been the Grade One Ascot Chase on February 16 that the horse, owned by Richard Collins, won last year.
Entries also include Amy Murphy’s exciting novice chaser Kalashnikov, but she has said the Kingmarker Chase at Warwick on the same afternoon remains the target for Jack Quinlan’s mount.
He won his first two starts over fences, but was beaten by the Nicholls-trained and Cobden-ridden Dynamite Dollars in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton over Christmas.
“He’s absolutely fine. He did his last piece of work this morning,” said Newmarket-based Murphy.
“Warwick is the plan. We put him in at Newbury as a precaution after the way things have been over the last few weeks. We thought he may as well have two entries rather than one.”
Among the potential opposition to Kalashnikov is Harry Fry’s French import Dalila Du Seuil, who made a winning British debut at Exeter last month.
Bingley trainer Sue Smith’s ever-consistent Dartford warbler followed up on a recent success at Sedgefield by prevailing at Market Rasen under Danny Cook.