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Nicholls seeking timely boost with Clan Des Obeaux

Paul Nicholls wheels out one of his big guns in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury, with dual King George VI Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux hoping to put an end to the Ditcheat yard’s relatively poor run of form.

Last week, Sandown scorer Dolos provided the sole winner from 11 runners in a frustrating weekend for the 11-times champion trainer.

That success is the only one in the yard’s last 37 runners, with the 59-year-old handler drawing stumps this week in a bid to get to the bottom of the problem.

Yet he has every faith that Clan Des Obeaux, who finished runner-up to Tornado Flyer in a bid for a third King George victory on Boxing Day, can roll back the years and go one better than in last year’s renewal.

Paul Nicholls with Frodon at his Ditcheat base
Paul Nicholls with Frodon at his Ditcheat base (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Nicholls said: “He got beat in this last year by (stablemate) Secret Investor which was surprising, but since that day we’ve put cheekpieces on him and he’s not really looked back.

“He’s in good shape and the ground should be fine. The only negative is the form of the yard, but I’m looking forward to running him.

“The fact he’s not going to Cheltenham means there aren’t too many options for him. The ground seems ideal.”

Clan Des Obeaux takes on four rivals, including Haydock’s Peter Marsh Chase winner, the Venetia Williams-trained Royale Pagaille, and Colin Tizzard’s Silvinaco Conti Chase runner-up Eldorado Allen.

Meanwhile, Kim Bailey is hopeful Imperial Aura can put a couple of unprepossessing runs behind him and bounce back to form.

The Andoversford handler feels the nine-year-old has had excuses for two runs this term.

Kim Bailey retains plenty of faith in Imperial Aura
Kim Bailey retains plenty of faith in Imperial Aura (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Pulled up when well supported in the Grade One Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last March, he subsequently underwent wind surgery and was travelling well on his return in the Betfair Chase before falling six from home at Haydock in a race won by A Plus Tard.

He was again pulled up on his latest appearance, in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree, in early December and while he has not won for 15 months, Bailey remains hopeful he can turn the corner.

“We’re happy with him,” said Bailey. “He had a dirty scope after the last time we ran him. He was quite sick and he was the only horse we have had scope dirty all season.

“So we have given him a bit of time to get over it. He has scoped well and schooled well and we are back to find out where we are.

“The one at Haydock was annoying, as if he hadn’t fallen over he would probably have been second.

“We are always hopeful – and still here, that’s the important thing!”

De Rasher Counter winning the Ladbrokes Trophy
De Rasher Counter winning the Ladbrokes Trophy (Nigel French/PA)

Completing the field is De Rasher Counter, who won the Ladbrokes Trophy on his last visit to Newbury in November 2019.

The lightly-raced 10-year-old has won three of his nine starts over fences but has to overcome a 489-day lay-off following a tendon injury.

This will be a big step for in his preparation for the Randox Grand National at Aintree in April.

His trainer, Emma Lavelle, said: “Off his rating he’s going to be carrying loads of weight in a handicap to have your first run, or you can go and run in a small field in a conditions race like this at Newbury, a track he loves, down the road. It made sense to aim at that chase as a starting point.

“He’s a horse with a huge amount of ability and he’s done plenty but as much as anything, whatever happens, it’s the next step towards the National.”

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