Ladbrokes King George VI Chase
Grade 1, Kempton Park 15:15
£250,000 added,
4yo plus,
3m, Class 1  
Thursday 26th December 2019

Ladbrokes

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 November 2.

“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.”

Trainers Quotes

Nicky Henderson has “no qualms” about pitching Altior against Cyrname again, despite seeing his stable star’s 19-race unbeaten run ended at Ascot on November 23.

Cyrname proved two and a quarter lengths too good for Altior in the Christy 1965 Chase, in what was the dual Champion Chase winner’s first start beyond two and a quarter miles.

Henderson’s initial plan was to step up to three miles for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on Boxing Day – which would produce another clash with the Paul Nicholls-trained Cyrname – and that race has not been ruled out, with the Seven Barrows handler retaining full faith in Altior’s stamina.

However, Henderson is keen to see how Altior recovers before committing to a target, and the nine-year-old is set for “precautionary” post-race tests on Monday.

He told his Unibet blog: “I have no doubt he got the trip, but on that ground it was ultimately race fitness that took its toll, because he’d had no ‘away days’ or racecourse gallops, so I’d like to think he will improve for the run anyway.

“Without looking for excuses, I don’t really think he travelled with his usual zest – to be honest I thought Nico (de Boinville) would have trouble holding him, therefore I suspect the ground does have something to do with it.

“But we’ll get him fully checked over tomorrow morning, purely as a precautionary measure, and evaluate the situation after that.”

Henderson gives due credit to Cyrname for his victory, but confirms too that a re-match is still on his mind.

“He did his level best, as always – but, as I feared would have to happen one day, he got beaten by a better horse on the day, and that’s what horse racing is all about.

“Take nothing away from Cyrname – he is a very talented animal and deserves the plaudits he gets.

“I’ve just had a long chat with (owner) Pat Pugh, and she’s great about the whole thing – very philosophical as always, and we’re certainly not ruling anything in or out.

“Where we go next, I don’t know, but I definitely wouldn’t rule out the King George because that has always been the long-term plan – although if it is really heavy ground perhaps we would have to reconsider, but I’d have no qualms about taking on Cyrname again.

“I’d say Kempton is the most likely next stop if he’s fit and well, but it all depends on how long it takes to get over this; if it’s two months, then that’s how long it will take.

“He puts a lot into his races, literally his heart and soul, which is why he’s so good – so he’ll be given as much time as is required.”

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Ladbrokes King George VI Chase
£250,000 added, 4yo plus, 3m, Class 1
19 remaining entries
Going: Good to Soft, Good in places

NO. FORM HORSE AGE WGT TRAINER JOCKEY
1 1111-2 Altior 9 11-10 Nicky Henderson
2 1162-3 Aso 9 11-10 Venetia Williams
3 1F34-2 Bristol De Mai 8 11-10 Nigel Twiston-Davies
4 1152-2 Clan Des Obeaux 7 11-10 Paul Nicholls
5 3711-1 Cyrname 7 11-10 Paul Nicholls
6 211-21 Defi Du Seuil 6 11-10 Philip Hobbs
7 311-34 Duc Des Genievres 6 11-10 W P Mullins
8 21-121 Enjeu D'Arthel 5 11-10 Emmanuel Clayeux
9 /F28-1 Footpad 7 11-10 W P Mullins
10 221-11 Lostintranslation 7 11-10 Colin Tizzard
11 1/57P- Might Bite 10 11-10 Nicky Henderson
12 1151-2 Min 8 11-10 W P Mullins
13 214-P3 Monalee 8 11-10 Henry De Bromhead
14 162-11 Real Steel 6 11-10 W P Mullins
15 3235-1 Road To Respect 8 11-10 Noel Meade
16 /32P-2 Thistlecrack 11 11-10 Colin Tizzard
17 1135-1 Vinndication 6 11-10 Kim Bailey
18 3FU1-4 Voix Du Reve 7 11-10 W P Mullins
19 1112-P La Bague Au Roi 8 11-3 Warren Greatrex