Nicholls has high hopes for Clan
Views from connections ahead of the BetBright Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday.
Clan Des Obeaux (near) is out to enhance his lofty reputation
Clan Des Obeaux aims to confirm the impression he created last time out when he runs in an intriguing renewal of the BetBright Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday.
Always viewed as a chaser, despite having proven a very useful juvenile hurdler last season, Paul Nicholls' youngster was rather underwhelming on his seasonal return at Chepstow.
He could finish only third behind Rock The Kasbah, but with another month of training under his belt he looked a different proposition at Newbury last time out.
Subsequent Grade One runner-up Virgilio could only get to within 10 lengths of Clan Des Obeaux as he never came out of second gear.
While connections would prefer softer ground, they head to Cheltenham full of confidence.
"I think we'd like to see a bit of rain for him," said Nicholls' assistant Harry Derham.
"He's in great form and had a school (on Friday morning) and was very good.
"It's a Graded race at Cheltenham and they're always strong races, but I don't think any of us would swap our lad.
"He should run very well."
Stablemates Whisper and O O Seven take each other on in the five-runner field.
Both Nicky Henderson-trained runners have questions to answer, but both horses are extremely talented at their best.
Whisper has won the Grade One Liverpool Hurdle twice but when he tried chasing first time around he did not take to it.
Having looked a shadow of his former self last season, he reappeared at Cheltenham's December meeting with plenty to prove but he jumped like an old hand in beating a classy field.
O O Seven was most impressive on his chasing debut at Cheltenham but stepped up to three miles for a Grade Two at Doncaster, he never looked comfortable from a long way out.
"Both of them have been in good form at home and it looks the right race for them, which is why they both run," said Henderson.
"Whisper was very good first time out this season and with him it's all about getting him to put back-to-back good runs together, which he hasn't done for a while.
"We know he's got all the ability in the world and he clicked first time out so I hope he does again.
"O O Seven looked just as good as Whisper did when he won first time over fences but I don't know what happened next time at Doncaster.
"It wasn't the trip because he never travelled with any enthusiasm at all.
"Since then he has seemed fine at home, has schooled well and done everything right at home so I don't know what happened.
"If he performs like he did first time, he's got a chance but if he runs like last time he hasn't."
Henry Daly had intended on keeping the promising Briery Belle against fellow mares at Doncaster on Thursday.
However, Daly felt there was still a bit of frost in the ground and decided not to risk his promising novice, who has looked a natural in winning her first two outings this season.
Daly said: "She enjoys jumping fences, and that always gives you a massive chance when that is the case.
"Luckily, she finds it all rather exciting and that's half the game.
"It was very frustrating what happened at Doncaster the other day.
"We got there and while I won't say she doesn't want good ground, I'm not sure she wants good ground with a bit of frost in it, certainly not at this stage of the season, anyway.
"I've always thought if you want to run your horse on quickish ground you can do so towards the end of the season, not halfway through it.
"Where we eventually end up taking her I'm hoping will become apparent after this.
"Obviously this looks a tougher race than Doncaster, but we should find out more about her.
"At Warwick she beat a nice mare quite comfortably and I've always thought she wanted three miles but she keeps winning over two and a half.
"I'm just a stupid trainer, though, so what do I know?!"
The field is completed by Bernard Llewellyn's Never Equalled.
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