Discussion in 'CHELTENHAM 2019' started by Kegman, Feb 26, 2019.
A fired-up Paul Nicholls believes he has his best Cheltenham Festival team in years and that big Gold Cup hope Clan Des Obeaux has even more improvement to come. The star of his year's festival squadron was on Tuesday challenging Presenting Percy for Gold Cup favouritism at a top-priced 4-1 for the ten-time champion trainer, who pinpointed the chances of Topofthegame in the RSA Chase and Quel Destin in the Triumph Hurdle. Nicholls has not won the Cheltenham Gold Cup since Kauto Star's second success in 2009 and Clan Des Obeaux has a not dissimilar profile after winning the King George and Denman Chase en route to the meeting. When the seven-year-old gelding last visited Cheltenham he was second at handicap level and, although he has made rapid progress already, his trainer believes his charge could take another big step forward. Nicholls said: "I am thrilled with the way Clan [Des Obeaux] has progressed this season. He has had a great preparation and it is nice to go to Cheltenham with a leading chance. "We are really looking forward to running him. I think there is a bit more improvement to come from him, like we've seen with Cyrname [now the top-rated chaser]. Of all the horses in the Gold Cup, he is probably the most improving youngster; a lot of those horses in there are exposed.
"We don't know where he will end up and what he could be rated. Kauto Star won his first Gold Cup when he was seven, so he is the right age. Fingers crossed everything will go right and he will run a big race."
Unlike Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy, Clan Des Obeaux has had a perfect preparation for Cheltenham – taking the Denman Chase in impressive fashion by 11 lengths. Nicholls, who could equal Tom Dreaper's record of five wins in the race, added: "Everything has gone to plan since the Denman Chase; he has come out of the race really well. "Nothing could've gone better at Ascot the last day, it just went super. We did think it was a soft race but he beat a dual Grade 1 winner in Terrefort and absolutely murdered him. It was good to see him travel so well and jump well all the way to the line. "Now we are where we want to be with him; he is an experienced and mature horse. We are looking forward to letting him do the talking himself."
Nicholls has saddled just three winners at the past two festivals but has enjoyed an exceptional season with 12 Graded wins to put him at the top the trainers' standings and is 5-2 with Betway to be top British trainer at the meeting. He said: "It is the most excited I have been about the festival for a while. Having a fancied runner in the Gold Cup is what you really want. "The festival is the Olympics of our sport; it isn't the be all and end all but everyone wants runners. The team and the staff are all very excited for it. I get nervous about it, you are always thinking about it. Cliff (Lee, head lad) and I never stop."
Cotswold Chase winner Frodon could also feature in the Gold Cup but also has an entry in the Ryanair. He said: "He's a proper horse; he has had a wonderful year. He jumped and travelled well in the Cotswold Chase; we haven't run since purposely to keep him fresh and well. "He's in the Ryanair and Gold Cup and we'll have a look and make a plan depending on who else is running. We'll keep our options open, and run him in the race we think he'll have the best chance. "I'm not worried about the trip in the Gold Cup, as he'll stay all day, but it will be a tougher race than the Ryanair and that race could cut up. We won't run for the sake of it if we think we can win the Ryanair. He'll make a good account wherever he goes."
Of his team of runners he believes Topofthegame is his best chance of the week in the RSA Chase. He said: "I really fancy Topofthegame; he's one of our leading chances without a shadow of a doubt. He's a proper horse with good form and we certainly haven't seen the best of him yet."
"Quel Destin improved since his last run, he's a tough horse. Sean [Bowen] was very impressed with him at Haydock last time. I know Sir Erec is a very short-priced favourite for the Triumph but he will have to be really good to beat our horse. He's one of our leading chances for Cheltenham."
Checking in on 2018 Gold Cup hero Native River... "He’s a Gold Cup winner. He got beat by a very good horse round Haydock first time out (Clan des Obeaux, Paul Nicholls). "Going into the King George we were a little bit concerned about his performance the year before. Five out, you were expecting him to pull up, but he stayed on really strong, and towards the line. You’d say if there was another two furlongs, he’d be right up there with them. "This is right up his street, isn't it? "We don't want fast ground at Cheltenham, though."
An update on Thistlecrack... "He is a Stayers' Hurdle winner. In the King George, we thought coming off the bend we were going to win, there was only one other horse travelling and that was Clan des Obeaux. "He’s in good form, they’ll all play their game (in the Gold Cup). "He is what he is, he's a big powerful boy, and the engine is still there."
News on Elegant Escape... "Elegant Escape is a massive stayer, stamina does kick in the Gold Cup. "He's very similar to Native River, when we were trying to map out his novice season and this campaign. We thought he was very much like Native River as a hurdler, and he's probably achieved equally as much, there's not much in them, and Native River finished third in his first Gold Cup." "He's a stayer, in theory he could be an improver, and he looks brilliant at the moment."
On Elixir de Nutz's chance in the Supreme... "His form stands up to anybody’s from the race. He pulls quite hard, goes well from the front, but I don’t think we’ve got a jockey booked yet. "We took Kilbricken Storm, Native River and Master Debonair to Wincanton, and the jockey couldn’t hold on to Elixir de Nutz, he went about five clear. He's a strong front runner."
Plans for Slate House... "He’ll probably end up at Aintree. He needs a good run anyway as he broke a bone in the back of his knee, spent most of the summer stood in his stable - that’s why he’s slower getting going now. "He may end up going to Newbury on Saturday, and we’ll see how we are."
What's next for Mister Malarky...? "He's was a nice hurdler but he's been a revelation over fences and he's definitely good enough to run in the RSA. "The times were fast (at Ascot), I thought it was good ground at Ascot, hopefully the ground won’t be as quick at Cheltenham. "He has jumped very well and he’s a thorough stayer. "People say it’s an easier race (National Hunt Chase), I don’t think it is. Some very good horses will run in the four miler, and I don’t think there’s much in it."
Discussing Vision des Flos... "He’s been a lovely horse. If he hadn’t unseated Tom Scudamore at Ffos Las on his first novice chase, I’m sure he’d be chasing now. "Yesterday we found his easiest race. Yes, it was a good performance, he travelled extremely well. He travels well enough to go for the two mile handicap, but I’m sure the Champion Hurdle will be run at a frantic pace, and we’re not afraid of running him just off the pace. "He might go for the Champion Hurdle this year."
The Russian Doyen... "The two-and-a-half-mile novice, the Close Brothers, looks the right race, but he’s also in another. "He’s won two chases this year, he’s a beautiful horse, good hurdler. He’s as good and strong as I’ve ever seen him, he’s growing still, and still on the improve. "It’s a handicap isn’t it, it’s going to be a very close handicap too, there’s only going to be 6 lb from top to bottom."
Potential Cross Country plans for Ultragold... "We’ve had a brainwave this week, we might run him in the Cross Country. It seemed a good prep race for the. He’s in the Ultima but think he’s got a better chance of winning the Cross Country. "He will be in the Topham as well, but if he gets in the National, that’s where he’ll run. "He’s so much better over the national fences, that we’ve got to have a go at it."
Nothing left to chance with Molineaux... "He got beat on Friday, I couldn’t believe it. He’s entered in two races this weekend at Newbury, he probably won’t get in at Cheltenham off 132, so we don’t want to leave it to chance. "It probably won’t hurt him, he’s that type. Sometimes, at this time of year on better ground, you can do it."
Russian Hawk... "Got beat at Ascot the other day, a fantastic horse for chasing next year. "I was thinking of running him in the Albert Bartlett but his owners are quite keen on having a go at a handicap at Sandown on the Saturday before. It depends on the ground conditions. "He wants a stamina test, two and half on good ground won’t be enough, I think he’s an out-and-out stayer. If it comes up soft or heavy he can go there. If it’s going to be good ground, I think he’s a better chance of running for a place in the Albert Bartlett. He’s on the improve."
News on Lostintranslation... "One of the favourites over two and a half mile, I keep thinking I should’ve got him in the three miler but he's so good over two and half so it's fine. "He’s just a lovely chaser, he’s got form around Cheltenham, I'm sure they’ll go the pace, and he can jump off handy. You’ve only got to look at him, we’re hoping to have him for the Gold Cup next year. "Barry Geraghty sat behind us (on Defi du Seuil at Ascot) and did us for speed after the last. That won’t happen at Cheltenham, that was a four-horse race, when at Cheltenham it will be 15-20 horse race, the pace will be twice as much, so hopefully his stamina will kick in
Fox Norton's target... "He’s gone under the radar a little bit, I thought he’d run a lovely race at Ascot the other day, but he jumped a bit flat. "He has a bit of back trouble, so sometimes he has to have a little bit of medication. He’ll go for the Ryanair. "I think he’s more of a two and a half miler, but the Champion Chase is all about pace and stamina, and his stamina will kick in on the end in that race. Groundwise, he’s better on softer ground, and there’s plenty of time for the weather to change, which would suit everybody."
Champion Bumper tilt with Master Debonair... "He's won and been second at Cheltenham this year in bumpers and we've purposely held him back. "He was very good in the gallop at Wincanton and his dam came second to Annie Power in the Mares’ race at Cheltenham so he's well bred. "Next year we’ll aim at the Supreme Novices Hurdle, that’s what we think of him."
Stayers for West Approach... "He's been second to Paisley Park twice, he frightens himself at fences, not that he’s scared of them, he just jumps too high sometimes. "He’s got plenty of pace for a three-miler, if we could cover him up and save a bit for later on then we’d have a chance."
An update on Cyrus Darius... "He’s disappointed since we had him, he’s in still because he's entered. He’s a big strong horse, then he went lean, and we found he had ulcers. "He’s entered this weekend, and we’ll see where we are. He’s got good form, he’s a good horse, and he’s getting older, but we will have a go at the Festivals just to see if we can get him right again."
The latest on Kilbricken Storm... He's a bit of a forgotten horse, but he was very good in the gallops at Wincanton against Native River, Elixir de Nutz and Master Debonair. For a three-miler, he was right up alongside them. "He was alright first time out, then next time out he’s done the splits at the last. Since he started back, he’s been straightforward, probably had six weeks off. "People can crab his performance at Cheltenham, but he won it quite easily, the Albert Bartlett last year. He was good at Wincanton in the gallops, he was the one you’d take out of that."
Runs tomorrow 4.15 Newbury
Thistlecrack as an ew bet if we got soft ground or worst in the Gold Cup,Presenting Percy might be a weak favourite according to one vlog I watched on you tube.