Paul Nicholls with Clan des Obeaux

Aintree Festival: Paul Nicholls outlines plans

Paul Nicholls hopes the application of first-time headgear can revive the fortunes of Clan Des Obeaux as he bids to make it third time lucky in the Betway Bowl at next week’s Randox Grand National Festival at Aintree.

The talented nine-year-old will attempt to secure his first win since claiming the second of his two Ladbrokes King George VI Chase victories at Kempton Park in 2019 in the three-mile Grade One contest on Thursday week in which he finished third in 2018 and second in 2019.

Having watched Clan Des Obeaux finish a neck second behind stablemate Secret Investor in a Grade Two at Newbury last time out, which was his third defeat of the season, Nicholls is now considering running the Kapgarde gelding in either blinkers or a set of cheekpieces at Aintree.

Sam Twiston-Davies wins on Clan Des Obeaux

He said: “Clan Des Obeaux will run in the Betway Bowl and he is either going to run in some blinkers or cheekpieces - we will decide nearer the time. He ran very well the last day behind Secret Investor and he deserves to win a nice race this season. He ran on at Haydock in the Betfair Chase but the ground would have been against him that day, then he didn’t quite perform in the King George.

“I just think some cheekpieces or blinkers might just sharpen him up a bit as the other day I thought he should have won at Newbury, but Secret Investor just out-battled him a little bit.

“To be fair, he has had a lot of hard races but he has stayed sound through it all. He probably looks after himself a little bit, so a bit of headgear might just focus him a bit more.”

Politologue - could run at Aintree

Politologue could be given the chance to return to winning ways in the Grade One Marsh Melling Chase on day two, which he claimed in 2018, after suffering a last minute setback which denied him the chance to defend his Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at Cheltenham.

Nicholls added: “Politologue will either go here or go to Sandown for the Celebration Chase. It was frustrating what happened before the Queen Mother and it just about summed my Cheltenham week up.

“The way the race unfolded you would have to have said he would have been right in the mix. He just had a trickle of blood in his nose. It wasn’t from his lungs. If we would have run him, and something would have happened we would never forgive ourselves so we did the right thing for the horse.

ou can’t take chances with horses like that. He is fresh and well and he has won this race before.”

Nicholls, who is on course to claim a 12th Jump Trainers’ Championship and passed the 150 winners for the season mark on Monday, will also be represented in the two-and-a-half mile prize by Grade Two winner Master Tommytucker.

He added: “Master Tommytucker was always going to go for this race after his run at Ascot. He ran very well in the Ascot Chase behind Dashel Drasher. Better ground will suit him, as would a flatter track. I don’t think he will be far away in the King George next season.”

Hitman scores at Newbury

Hitman will return to Grade One level for the first time since falling in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown Park when attempting to follow up a victory at Newbury in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase.

His trainer said: “This has always been Hitman’s target as we missed Cheltenham with him. He won nicely at Newbury the last day where he had a pop round to get his confidence back after he had a fall in the Scilly Isles. Two and a half miles around Aintree will suit him well. I’d like to think he would be one of my best chances.”

Yala Enki - one of two runners in the National

It is nine years since Nicholls claimed his sole victory in the Randox Grand National with Neptune Collonges and his chances of winning this year’s renewal of the world’s greatest steeplechase rest with Yala Enki and Give Me A Copper.

Nicholls said: “We took Yala Enki down to David Pipe’s the other day to jump the National fences there and he jumped great. He went to Lambourn to go over the National fences there today so he has had two schools over the fences.

“Give Me A Copper schooled with him at David’s the other day and he did well. He ran well at Doncaster first time then he didn’t run quite so well last time but I’ve always thought this race would suit him.

“Yala Enki went down to the first in the Becher like a bull in a china shop and he fell, but he then jumped the rest brilliantly on his own. Since then Bryony (Frost) has said he has jumped a lot better.

“The Grand National start is probably better than the one in the Becher when the first fence is almost on top of them. Some of his form this year would put him in with a right chance and he stays forever.”

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