Trainer Paul Nicholls is the undisputed king of Boxing Day’s King George VI Chase at Kempton after he landed the huge Grade 1 event for the eleventh time with last year’s winner Clan Des Obeaux.
Earlier on the card before Clan’s extraordinary performance, Nicky Henderson landed the Christmas Hurdle in style with his Epatante who now stands as the market leader for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Clan Now Second Favourite for Cheltenham Gold Cup
In the build-up to the King George VI Chase, trainer Paul Nicholls had rightly stated that first jockey Harry Cobden had a very tough decision to make regarding his King George mount, given that Cyrname was now the highest rated chaser in training but that last year’s winner Clan Des Obeaux was potentially every bit as good.
Cobden chose Cyrname this time and the Christy 1965 Chase winner, a race in which he beat the much venerated Altior, duly went off 5/4 favourite ahead of Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation (15/8) with Clan Des Obeaux looking like good value at 11/2.
28/1 outsider Aso led the field early but was never travelling quite well enough to be considered a proper contender while Lostintranslation dropped out tamely and was ultimately pulled-up.
Willie Mullins’ Footpad (13/2) was running as well as could be realistically expected and eventually plugged on for third, but as the race got going in earnest with three to jump it was the Nicholls duo that took over.
Favourite Cyrname, not used to going this distance in a high-level race, jumped left with two to go as Clan Des Obeaux took over under Sam Twiston-Davies with the pair putting daylight between themselves and the rest of the field to win the £144,000 first prize by an impressive-looking 21 lengths.
His win puts him a few pounds ahead of where he was last year when taking the same race, and he is now the general 6/1 second-favourite for the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival behind Kemboy at 5/1.
Epatante the New Champion Hurdle Jolly
Half an hour earlier, Nicky Henderson’s Epatante made even bigger waves in the Cheltenham Festival betting markets when she became the new market leader for the Champion Hurdle on March 10th.
Going off the 2/1 joint-favourite for the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle with stable companion Fusil Raffles, the admirable five-year-old mare travelled best of all throughout the race and quickened clear after the final flight to record a huge five-length success from Silver Streak.
Barry Geraghty’s mount is now the general 7/2 and 4/1 favourite ahead of Klassical Dream and Saldier, though she’ll likely need one more race to confirm that ability as well as her place in the line-up.
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First Home Success in Welsh National for 54 Years
Having been narrowly denied a win in his home Grand National as a rider some years ago, Welsh trainer Christian Williams ensured via his nine-year-old Potters Corner than the country won their own National for the first time in over five decades on Friday at Chepstow.
There were plenty in with chances with five to jump in the home straight, but it was Jack Tudor’s mount that stayed on best of all to perhaps set up a tilt at the Grand National itself at Aintree in April on a day when a whole nation celebrated the success of the well-backed 8/1 shot.