Paul Nichols is having a hard time separating Clan des Obox and Sirney before the rematch in the sixth chase of the Lotbrooks King George in Kempton on Boxing Day.
The festive highlight last season in the wake of embracing the first defeat in the jump on the Altier in Ascot the previous month was the Sir Nom Red-hot favorite, but there was a tough race, with no match for the finally defending Clan des Obox whose King George crown.
Sirney looked back at his best when he successfully launched his current campaign at the Charlie Hall Chase in Wetherby, however, one can expect Clan des Obox to be cherry-ripe after taking second place to the Bristol de Mike at the Fair Chase in Haddock. .
Nichols said: “Since Haddock I’m been very excited about the Clan des Obox, he had a tough race (in the Bedfire Chase) .It was more of a test ground than we wanted, but he’s more fit to go racing, it helps.
“Any horse that has won two King Georges is the best horse. He’s not performed in Cheltenham, so he may be a little underestimated, but it’s special if he goes and wins the third King George. He’s very good Kempton and we are focused.
“I’m not sure if Sirney was close to his best place last year. Like Charlie Hall was, if Sirney turns his A-game, it’s a very interesting bet, and it’s best to keep the Clan in person.
“Sirname has a great product and it looks fantastic to come out of that race (in the weather) – I’m so happy we’re in a completely different place from where we were last year.
“It’s going to be a lot closer and different than last year, that’s for sure. I think it’s a very interesting race. Separating them would be a hell of a job.”
Nichols, who has beaten King George 11 times, could have four racers this year, with Real Steel and Frodon set to get their chance at Grade One three miles.
Froden was disappointed on his recent trip to several cloud chases in Eintree, while Real Steel – sixth in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup for Willie Mullins – finished third in Ascot at Nicholas’ first start last month.
“It didn’t work for Fraud in Indre,” Nichols added.
“He’s out of the race, it’s a matter of updating him. There’s nothing else to run for him, so we’ll give him a chance, Mr Vogt (owner) wants to get a runner in King George.
“Real Steel came up well in his Ascot race so he needs a run and for that he will improve.
“I think three miles is probably his journey. You have to say he plays for places in all known formats, but he gives a good account of himself.”