Clan Des Obeaux made it back-to-back wins in the King George VI Chase with a dominant victory at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount came to the front of the field with two fences left and the went well clear to win by a massive 21 lengths, giving trainer Paul Nicholls a record-extending 11th win in the prestigious Christmas time race.
The race favourite Cyrname, also from the Nicholls stable, was a distant second and never looked entirely comfortable, in contrast to the seven-year-old winner, who is part-owned by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and looked the fresher and jumped superbly.
Victory was particularly sweet for Twiston-Davies who took the ride after Harry Cobden opted to ride Cyrname, and after Twiston-Davies was replaced by Cobden as number one jockey for Nicholls last year.
Clan Des Obeaux’s only start this season saw him finish second at Down Royal in November – the same month that Cyrname inflicted Altior’s first career defeat over fences.
Although Cyrname took the lead at Kempton with over a circuit to go and was still ahead rounding the home turn, the eventual winner was travelling the better and showed his class.
Irish challenger Footpad was third, but the big disappointment was the Colin Tizzard-trained Lostintranslation, who seemed to be struggling to keep tabs early on and was ultimately pulled up by Robbie Power, having briefly looked like he might play a part at one stage.
Speaking afterwards, Nicholls said, “It’s nice to have a one-two and it’s nice for Sam to ride a Grade One winner. I said all along it was a tough call for Harry. I couldn’t really advise him what to do.
“I’ve always said he’s a better horse this year, as he’s a year older and stronger. If he keeps going forward it could put him in the Gold Cup picture. The key is to be really fresh – it wouldn’t be the worst decision to go straight to Cheltenham with him.”
Speaking about the prospects of another try for another King George VI victory next year, Nicholls added, “We’ve got to go for 12 now, haven’t we? There’s no reason why both horses won’t be back next year.”
Clan Des Obeaux is co-owned by Sir Alex with Paul Barber and Ged Mason. Nicholls said: “To win for my landlord Paul Barber, in his colours, and for Ged, who sponsors my yard, and Sir Alex, who has already been on the phone, is fantastic.”
In the race before, talented mare Epatante showed her class to win the Christmas Hurdle. Ridden by Barry Geraghty, the JP McManus-owned five-year-old had disappointed when hot favourite for the mares’ novices’ hurdle at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, but is back to form this season. The joint favourite won by five lengths from Silver Streak, with Ballyandy third, in doing so giving trainer Nicky Henderson a record ninth win in the race.
That completed a double for Henderson and Geraghty after they had also taken the day’s opener, the two mile novice hurdle. Victory here came courtesy of Henderson’s Fred who won by four and a half lengths from Ecco in second, with Getaway Fred a distant third trailing seven lengths back.