Paul Nicholls at Cheltenham: Improving Clan has a big chance in the Gold Cup
It's a big day for Paul Nicholls on the final afternoon of the Cheltenham Festival as he saddles no less than 10 runners, including Clan Des Obeaux in the Gold Cup...
"He is the one doing the talking and of all the horses in the Gold Cup he is the improving youngster while a lot of his rivals are fully exposed."
- Paul Nicholls on Clan Des Obeaux
In super form at home and still improving
Triumph Hurdle 13:30 - Quel Destin
He is a tough and talented juvenile who keeps delivering and arrives at Cheltenham in the form of his life. He has won five on the bounce now including the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow where he dug deep to see off Adjali and he was again very strong at the finish last time at Haydock.
Quel Destin was rated 66 on the flat while the Triumph favourite Sir Erec has a mark of 109. But jumping is the name of the game and Sir Erec will have to be very good to beat our horse who is battle hardened, improving, will relish the soft ground and couldn't be in better form at home.
French import could be the joker in the pack
Triumph Hurdle 13:30 - Pic Dorhy
Joined us from France with a rating of 149 earned from some seriously smart form in the autumn at Auteuil where he won three times on his first four starts. He is an exciting recruit who has a big future, is giving us all the right signals at home and has twice worked really well at Wincanton.
While it is a big ask to expect him to win on his debut for us at the Cheltenham Festival we've done it twice in the the past with Aux Ptit Soins and Diego Du Charmil. It's fair to say I don't know enough about Pic D'Orhy yet but he could just be the joker in the Triumph pack.
Probably aiming to high
Triumph Hurdle 13:30 - Ecco
He is a nice prospect from Germany where he ran in the Derby at Hamburg in July. He showed a fair bit of promise at Kempton on his debut for us in the Adonis Hurdle three weeks ago won by Fusil Raffles
Ecco was keen that day before finishing out of the money. Although he will know more this time and will win races over hurdles we are probably aiming a bit too high in the Triumph at this stage of his career.
Jockey is keen on his chances
County Hurdle 14:10 - Capitaine
Is my only runner in the County Hurdle after I decided this race came too soon for Malaya after her spirited success in the Imperial Cup on Saturday.
He won nicely last time at Taunton after a little break to freshen him up after we tinkered with his breathing. He will improve for that run and his jockey Harry Cobden is keen on his chances.
Most of Capitaine's best form is on decent ground so we could do with some drying conditions for him.
Big chance of Gold Cup success for improving youngster
Gold Cup 15:30 - Clan Des Obeaux
He was learning about his job last year and now we have him where we want him to be. He is a star act, classy, progressive and has been awesome on his last two starts, winning the King George at Kempton before a hugely impressive defeat of Terrefort at Ascot a month ago.
Some people question Clan's liking for Cheltenham because he hasn't won there in four starts. That doesn't bother me as he has run very well at the track three times, and is a much better horse now given his rapid rate of improvement.
He is the one doing the talking and of all the horses in the Gold Cup he is the improving youngster while a lot of his rivals are fully exposed.
Kauto Star won his first Gold Cup at seven, the same age as Clan who has won on soft and heavy so conditions should be fine for him. Big chance.
Legend Pacha can get involved again
Foxhunters 16:10 - Pacha Du Polder
Is a legend in this race, having won it for the past two years and earlier finished fifth ridden by Victoria Pendleton. Pacha and Harriet Tucker gained a famous victory a year ago despite Harriet's shoulder popping out at a key stage of the race.
She was subsequently out for six months after surgery to repair the injury but is riding winners again in point-to-points and they were back together recently at Haydock where Pacha didn't perform as well as I expected. Then again he always needs his first run to sharpen him up and a year ago he came on bundles from his seasonal debut.
Pacha does need to take a big step forward now but he is very well in himself and it's encouraging that he saves his best for Cheltenham where he enjoys finishing strongly off a decent pace. I am hopeful he will be involved again.
Saint has a big chance
Grand Annual 16:50 - Magic Saint
I've felt for some time that he is one of my best chances of the week. He took a bit of time to acclimatise after joining us from France but he has certainly got his act together now and I am hopeful he might be a bit better than a handicapper in time.
Daryl Jacob was highly impressed with Magic Saint last time at Wincanton where he travelled powerfully behind the leaders before leading two out and sauntering clear.
That was his first try at two miles for us and this slick jumper looks tailor made for the Grand Annual which has been his target for some time. He has a cracking chance on soft ground that he relishes.
Fast run race will suit Prezien
Grand Annual 16:50 - Le Prezien
Won this in style off a mark of 150 a year ago, coming from off the pace with a storming late run. He has been a bit out of sorts this season but is in good heart at home and if he can bounce back he has to be a contender again back down to a mark of 151.
Le Prezien was never really going at Sandown last time, but he does tend to come good in the spring, handles soft ground and if they go too fast early on, which can happen in this race, then he will be eating up the ground turning for home. He is not without a chance if he can sharpen up his jumping.
Ground set to suit
Grand Annual 16:50 - Brelan d'As
It was a bit of a surprise to see him just squeeze into the race at the foot of the handicap and a fast run two miles will suit him very well.
Bryony Frost gets a great tune out of Brelan d'As who has won twice over the minimum trip, gets further and handled heavy ground fine when he beat Whatswrongwithyou at Haydock.
Girls can end the Festival on a high note
Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle 17:30 - If You Say Run
She has been running consistently well all season which means that she is on high enough mark now. Last time If You Say Run was just touched off by another classy mare Jester Jet at Haydock which is smart form.
It always helps to have a decent jockey in this race where experience counts and we have the best in Bryony Frost who rode her 100th winner at the start of the week.
You could say they are two spirited females together. One thing is for sure. If they jump the last flight in front nothing will get past them in the run-in.
*Best chance. Magic Saint in the Grand Annual. A smart young chaser who looks tailor made for the race.