Can Clan Des Obeaux Build on His Excellent End to the 20/21 Season?
Clan Des Obeaux roared into life at the end of the 2020/21 campaign, producing a brilliant performance in his final race of the term to win the Punchestown Gold Cup. There had not been an English-based winner of the race since 2010, but Paul Nicholls' charge was outstanding to take the crown and beat the plethora of talented Irish horses on their own patch.
The nine-year-old has displayed his talent for a number of years on the circuit. However, he now appears to be operating at the peak of his powers. It raises the question of whether Clan Des Obeaux can muster his best form at major events in the future to truly establish himself as one of the great horses of the era.
The French thoroughbred has won the King George VI Chase twice at Kempton Park. However, his bid to secure three crowns on the bounce was ended by Frodon in 2020. Clan Des Obeaux has also been unsuccessful at Cheltenham Racecourse, failing to register a victory at the venue, dating back to his first appearance at the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
To move into the conversation as a modern-day great in the ilk of Al Boum Photo, Nicholls needs to mould his charge into shape for a crack at the Gold Cup. It has evaded him thus far, but his performances towards the end of the campaign suggest that Clan Des Obeaux still has a lot left to give.
Clan Des Obeaux ended the 2019/20 National Hunt campaign with a disappointing performance in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, placing eighth after being considered one of the leading contenders for the crown. He made an off-season of recovery after undergoing wind surgery in July, which did not affect his return to the track as the French thoroughbred appeared at Haydock Park in the Betfair Chase. But he was defeated at the hands of Bristol De Mai by two lengths regardless.
Carrying a two-race win streak into the King George VI Chase, the nine-year-old was the favourite for the event on Boxing Day. However, it was his stable-mate Frodon that produced the best display on the day as Clan Des Obeaux was forced to settle for third. Bryony Frost and another stable-mate Secret Investor bested the French thoroughbred in the Denman Chase at Newbury, winning the race by the tightest of margins on the line.
Nicholls made the call to not place his charge in Cheltenham Festival for a third run in the Gold Cup. Instead, he opted for the Betway Bowl Chase at Aintree in April. The move was a savvy choice by the trainer as Clan Des Obeaux marched towards a dominant victory, beating Tiger Roll among others in the field by 26 lengths.
He carried that momentum into his final race of the campaign at Punchestown. Despite his win at Aintree, the French thoroughbred was not the favourite for the title with Al Boum Photo in the field. However, he overcame his old adversary to win the event for the first time with an excellent run.
What Does the Future Hold?
Clan Des Obeaux is the favourite for the King George VI Chase in the horse racing betting odds for the event as he seeks a third victory in four years. However, there's no guarantee whether he will compete at Kempton Park, and it will be interesting to see how Nicholls deploys his charge over the course of the campaign. His success in Ireland may see the experienced trainer change his method of operations and focus on meets across the Irish Sea, despite his yard being based in the South West of England.
Two years ago, the French thoroughbred placed second in the Champion Chase at Down Royal behind Road To Respect. Nicholls may believe that his charge has unfinished business in Northern Ireland's signature race, although he could easily leave him on the same path as last season.
The big question will come in the second half of the term. Nicholls was bold in forgoing Cheltenham Festival to target the Betway Bowl Chase and the Punchestown Gold Cup. Whether he does that for two seasons in a row remains to be seen.
Clan Des Obeaux might just be one of those horses that do not like racing at Cheltenham Festival. But he does have the quality to capture the Gold Cup as his performances have shown in the King George VI Chase and the Punchestown Gold Cup. Nicholls might be tempted for one last crack with his charge, but it will be a difficult decision.
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