Last year’s winner Clan Des Obeaux provided Paul Nicholls with a record 11th victory in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase.
Although only five runners went to post for the traditional Boxing Day feature, the race did not lack intrigue, with the defending champion Clan Des Obeaux taken on by his top-class stablemate Cyrname, Betfair Chase hero Lostintranslation, Irish raider Footpad and outsider Aso.
Having inflicted a first career defeat over jumps on Altior at Ascot last month, Cyrname was the well-backed 5-4 favourite, with Harry Cobden siding with him over Clan Des Obeaux.
After initially taking a lead from Aso, Cyrname adopted his customary prominent position at the head of affairs with over a circuit to go – and was still just about in front rounding the home turn.
However, 11-2 chance Clan Des Obeaux was travelling the better of the pair in the hands of Sam Twiston-Davies and pulled right away between the final two fences, winging the last to score by 21 lengths.
Cyrname boxed on to finish second and provide the champion trainer with a one-two, ahead of Footpad in third.
Nicholls said: “It’s nice to have a one-two and it’s nice for Sam to ride a Grade One winner.
“I said all along it was a tough call for Harry. I couldn’t really advise him what to do. When I said I don’t know what I would have done I really did mean it – and I knew the more it rained today the more it would suit Clan.
“The answer is to have him nice and fresh. He was 6-1 earlier on today and I told Ged (Mason, part-owner) to go and have a good bet on him as 6-1 was massive.
“He had a fantastic preparation and I knew he’d improve from Down Royal. He wasn’t going to be at his best there and today was the day.”
Clan Des Obeaux could finish only fifth in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup – but Nicholls feels he could better that effort come March.
He is as short as 5-1 with some bookmakers for the blue riband.
Nicholls added: “I’ve always said he’s a better horse this year, as he’s a year older and stronger. If he keeps going forward it could put him in the Gold Cup picture.
“The key is to be really fresh – it wouldn’t be the worst decision to go straight to Cheltenham with him.”
He added: “We’ve got to go for 12 now, haven’t we? There’s no reason why both horses won’t be back next year. I just love winning the good races – preparing the horses for the big days is what I really enjoy more than anything now.
“To win for my landlord Paul Barber, in his colours, and for Ged, who sponsors my yard, and Sir Alex (Ferguson), who has already been on the phone, is fantastic.”
While keen to take nothing away from his winner, the Ditcheat handler feels Cyrname performed below par.
He said: “I don’t think he had that normal zest and he just ran a bit flat. Harry niggled him a couple of times and it’s quite possible the race at Ascot took more out of him than we first thought.
“He still ran a good race and he’ll be back.”
The big disappointment was the Colin Tizzard-trained Lostintranslation, who seemed to be struggling to keep tabs early on and was ultimately pulled up by Robbie Power, having briefly looked like he might play a part at one stage.
Tizzard subsequently reported to the stewards his charge had a breathing problem on the soft going on this occasion.