Nicholls bringing King George squad to the boil

‘All three of them are on target. They have had a nice prep’.

Paul Nicholls is stepping up preparations for his trio of Ladbrokes King George VI Chase horses ahead of the Kempton showpiece on Boxing Day.

Frodon, a shock 20-1 winner last year, will bid to defend his crown and give the champion trainer a 13th victory in the race, while Clan Des Obeaux, who won back-to-back renewals in 2018 and 2019 before finishing third last year, will be out to make it three victories in the three-mile Grade One event.

The duo will be joined by Saint Calvados, who was fourth 12 months ago when in the care of Harry Whittington.

Nicholls said: “All three of them are on target. They have had a nice prep.

“Clan is in good shape – he is very well. So is Frodon. We plan to give all three of them an away day somewhere in the middle of this month and then it will soon come round. We are very happy with them and can’t wait for that race.”

Nicholls is also eyeing Kempton’s Desert Orchid Chase for former Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Politologue, after he ruled him out of Saturday’s Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, a race he won last year.

Runner-up to Nube Negra in a Grade Two contest at Cheltenham on his seasonal bow, Nicholls explained that the ground was against a defence of his title this weekend.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “He has come out of Cheltenham well the other day and had the ground been testing this week, then we might have looked at it, but it is not suitable for him.

“Where do you go with him? There are obvious targets. You could look at the Desert Orchid at Kempton on December 27, but the ground would want to be very testing or soft, and I’m sort of favouring Ascot at the end of January. That would suit him quite nicely.”

Nicholls also revealed that exciting Grade One-winning hurdler Monmiral, who trailed in fifth of six in last Saturday’s Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, sustained an injury and will be sidelined until the New Year.

Nicholls said: “He is still at the vets. He did sustain a nasty cut, which is a very valid excuse. On Monday, we were not very happy with him, so we sent him to the veterinary hospital that we always use and he has been there ever since. I have had a text this morning, and he is 100 per cent and the cut is OK.

“We didn’t want him to go the wrong way and we will pick him up tomorrow or Monday and I suspect he will be ready to run in the middle of January.

“He obviously had a valid excuse. I think someone jumped into him at the first or the second and obviously he didn’t perform well after that.

“He will have a couple of quiet weeks and then we’ll get him back in January. I think he is going to want two and a half miles – I have always thought that.

“We are buying a bit of time until he goes chasing in the autumn and that’s when I think we will see him at his best.

“It is always a tough year for four-year-olds. We did think we’d go well on Saturday, and obviously I was disappointed at the time, but he has a very reasonable excuse and we will put a line through that run.

“We will start with him in January and see where we end up. It might well be that the target for him will be the two-and-a-half-mile race at the Aintree festival (Aintree Hurdle) – I see that being a nice race for him – and then look forward to him chasing in October.”

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