Clan Des Obeaux secures a 10th King George for Paul Nicholls
Jockey Harry Cobden times his run perfectly to get the better of Thistlecrack
Harry Cobden riding Clan des Obeaux on the way to winning the 32Red King George VI Chase from Tom Scudamore and Thistlecrack at Kempton Park. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
For a moment at Kempton on Wednesday, it seemed that the fragile brilliance of Thistlecrack, the King George VI Chase winner two years’ ago, would light up the afternoon once again but no sooner had the old warrior hit the front than he was breezily swept aside by the youngest horse in the race. Clan Des Obeaux, still only six, took his measure at the last to record a far more emphatic success than the one-and-a-half length margin might suggest and give Paul Nicholls, his trainer, a 10th victory in chasing’s mid-season championship.
The King George was first staged in 1937 and no trainer bar Nicholls has won the race more than five times. Nicholls has also now matched the achievements of Fulke Walwyn and Francois Doumen in saddling four different horses to win a King George and with young chasers like Clan Des Obeaux coming to the fore, a challenge for an 11th trainers’ title, which he has not won since 2016, may only be a matter of time.
The ease with which Clan Des Obeaux cast aside a field full of Grade One winners was astonishing. True, Might Bite, the favourite, ran poorly for the second race running and was later reported to have bled from his nose, while bad racing luck accounted for two more fancied opponents as Bristol De Mai fell at the fence in front of the stands and brought down Waiting Patiently, the second-favourite.
The winner, though, was travelling so well as Thistlecrack turned for home in the lead that it was only a matter of time before Harry Cobden, riding Clan Des Obeaux rather than his shorter-priced stable companion Politologue, took charge. Cobden had still not asked for maximum effort as the two horses took the last and Clan Des Obeaux found more than enough to give Cobden, in his first full season as Nicholls’s principal jockey, his first King George success.
Clan Des Obeaux had finished behind both Thistlecrack and Native River in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last time, but Nicholls felt it had been a significant part of the education process for a horse he has long held in high regard.
“After Haydock, on the day when Politologue won at Ascot, I got in the car with Harry and said, ‘you’ve got a headache’,” Nicholls said. “He said ‘it’s no headache, there’s only one horse that I’m going to ride’. He thought he ran a really good race the other day and that it made a man of him. He’s improved a little bit and when you look at the form, he didn’t have too much to make up with Thistlecrack on that run.
“It was like a footballer coming from the Championship into the Premier League that day, he got a little bit lost but then stayed on and it was the basis of a good future.”
Kauto Star, whose statue at Kempton is a reminder of his record-breaking five King George wins for Nicholls, was also six when he took the race for the first time and assuming that he stays sound, Clan Des Obeaux is likely to be a regular runner in the race for years to come.
He should also be a leading player in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham and can be backed at around 10-1 to give Nicholls his fifth win in the race, while this success was also enough for Nicholls to dislodge his former assistant, Dan Skelton, at the top of the trainers’ table. Nicky Henderson, the winner for the last two seasons, remains odds-on to retain his title.
“He’s a proper Gold Cup contender,” Nicholls said. “From an October when we had five winners, we’ve done amazingly well. Nicky has some super, super horses, we’re getting there slowly and we’ll make it interesting, but it will be hard.” – Guardian