Last Saturday Paul Nicholls won the Tingle Creek for an incredible 10th time, and the Ditcheat bandwagon rolls into Cheltenham for their two-day December meeting with plenty of momentum.
Despite effectively conceding the title to reigning champion trainer Nicky Henderson at the start of the season, you can be sure the 10-time champion will be going all out to regain his crown.
He doesn’t have the armoury of old, but he still has some very promising horses and Saturday's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (1.55pm) has been kind to him.
Nicholls has claimed this prize four times in the last eight years and the last two successes have been with unexposed four-year-olds.
He is simply a brilliant trainer of chasers.
Novice hurdlers that look exposed over the smaller obstacles suddenly find bags of improvement when he sends them over fences.
There are too many to mention over the years, but a classic recent example is CLAN DES OBEAUX and I think this five-year-old can have his trainer celebrating again.
Admittedly, this isn’t going to be an easy task for Harry Cobden’s mount off top weight, although he has comfortably the strongest form in the race.
At Kempton last month in a graduation chase he was beaten just half a length by Whisper off level weights, despite being officially rated 9lbs below his conqueror.
Whisper went on to frank the form in no uncertain terms in the Ladbrokes Trophy, where he was only just reeled in late on by Total Recall.
Nicky Henderson’s classy chaser was pushed up another 8lbs for that run, leaving him on a mark of 169 and forcing him into graded company.
Clan Des Obeaux went to Haydock three weeks ago and annihilated his rivals on heavy ground, including the gutsy Vintage Clouds who had been impressive at Aintree in October.
I actually think the handicapper was quite kind only putting my selection up 7lbs considering the ease of his victory and Whisper’s subsequent exploits.
I’m not too concerned about top weight, as the handicap is fairly compressed.
He’s rated 155 and when Poquelin took this for the second year running in 2010 he was running off 163.
Take the 4/1 with Ladbrokes.
Ultimately, this just isn’t a great looking renewal and there is no doubt that Clan Des Obeaux is the most progressive horse in the line-up.
His biggest danger may actually come from stablemate LE PREZIEN who has the talent to win a race like this.
Undeniably quirky, Barry Geraghty held him up in last month’s BetVictor Gold Cup to come with a late run, but perhaps slightly overdid the waiting tactics.
He still ran well to be third and I think he can reverse the form with the two that finished in front of him.
Connections of Splash Of Ginge have enjoyed some fantastic days over the years, none more so than when he held off the late burst of STARCHITECT here in November.
He had dropped considerably in the weights and was well-handicapped on his old form.
A rise of 5lbs certainly isn’t insurmountable, although Exotic Dancer was the last to complete this big handicap double in 2006 and he was a much better horse.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ nine-year-old hasn’t been the most consistent during his career and I just wonder if he’s had his day in the sun now for this campaign.
I don’t think there will be much between Le Prezien and Starchitect.
The latter is perhaps a little more straightforward and might well have beaten Splash Of Ginge if he hadn’t made a couple of errors up the home straight.
The ground is likely to be pretty soft after all the snow Cheltenham had earlier in the week, which shouldn’t be a worry for David Pipe’s inmate.
However, there could just be a little more improvement to come from Le Prezien, who can go very close if putting it all together.
There are a number of others with squeaks like Kings Odyssey, Ballyalton and Guitar Pete, but they all have questions to answer.
If there is a proper graded performer in the line-up, you’d have to say it would be Clan Des Obeaux and I’ll stick with him to continue Cobden and Nicholls’ fine run.