Clan Des Obeaux seeks to fuel festival dreams against Henderson pair
Betbright Dipper Novices' Chase | 5yo+ | 2m4f166yds | Grade 2 | ITV
The first running of the Dipper Novices' Chase in 1980 was won by a horse who would go on to land the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Fast forward to 2017 and in the exciting Clan Des Obeaux the race has a star attraction who could conceivably one day follow in the footsteps of Little Owl.
A strikingly impressive Grade 2 success at Newbury showed Clan Des Obeaux to be a young chaser of the potentially very highest order. On that occasion he won without coming off the bridle, but he may be tested more here, with Nicky Henderson fielding both Whisper and O O Seven against the likely hot favourite.
Given Clan Des Obeaux was only four when scoring at Newbury, Paul Nicholls is keen not to give the Triumph Hurdle sixth a hard time this season. However, he has not ruled out a tilt at the JLT Novices' Chase – staged over the Dipper course and distance – for which Sam Twiston-Davies's mount is a best-priced 12-1.
"He could be a top-class chaser and he was very good at Newbury last time," said Nicholls, who rates the youngster alongside his other Grade 2-winning novice Politologue.
"As he started the season a four-year-old we always said we would take our time with him, and for now there are no plans for him after this race.
"I wouldn't rule out the festival, but if he did go there he definitely wouldn't run in the three-miler. At this stage of his career it would have to be for the two-and-a-half-miler."
Henderson and owner Dai Walters combined to take the Dipper with Oscar Whisky in 2014. They unite again with Whisper, who bounced back to form when winning a novice chase here at Cheltenham, where O O Seven had looked a super prospect in November only to then flop at Doncaster.
"Whisper was very good last time, when it was great to see him back," said Henderson. "It seems to be all or nothing with him and I'm now hoping we're starting to get his all once again.
"O O Seven was very good at Cheltenham and I just don't know what happened at Doncaster. If something had come to light he wouldn't be running again so soon. He seems to be in good form, so I'm hoping we can just draw a line through Doncaster and move on."
While Never Equalled has plenty to find on paper, the Henry Daly-trained Briery Belle certainly has a legitimate chance after adding two novice chase wins to her Cheltenham handicap hurdle success in April.
"The plan had been to go to Doncaster earlier in the week but I didn't fancy the ground," said Daly.
"It will be interesting to see how she gets on. I'm sure she wants further but she keeps winning over two and a half so we keep running her at the trip."