Paul Nicholls has warned supporters of Clan Des Obeaux that he will improve for his outing in this weekend’s Denman Chase at Newbury.

The King George winner is set to lock horns once more with Native River, after finishing third behind him at Kempton on Boxing Day, in the Grade 2 showpiece.

Colin Tizzard’s star stayed on for third in the Christmas showpiece, with three miles around Kempton deemed unlikely to have brought out his best, stamina-laden traits.

Native River is four-from-four over fences at Newbury however and is the 5/6 favourite with Betfred to defend a crown he won last year en route to winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Nicholls concedes that taking on Native River now is far from ideal, although he is happy to tread a path that has served him very well in the past with some big names.

“I didn’t really want to get into a scrap with Native River but there are not many options for him,” said the ten-time champion trainer.

“We’ve always done well running at Newbury with Denman and Kauto Star, then going on to the Gold Cup. I think it’s hard for a horse to run at Kempton then go to the Gold Cup and expect them to run at their very best.”

Clan Des Obeaux is 13/8 to win the Denman Chase on Saturday afternoon, with the likes of Anibale Fly, Coneygree and Noble Endeavour also in the mix at this stage.

Whatever happens, Nicholls is sure that his up-and-coming staying chaser will be better off for the run.

“We’ve worked him away, but I’ve not been hard on him and he will improve for Saturday until the Gold Cup,” he added. “You don’t want them at their best now, but fit enough to do themselves justice.

“He is a King George winner and they win Gold Cups. He is a progressive young horse.”

Having got into a battle with Thistlecrack at Kempton over Christmas, Nicholls has also hinted that Harry Cobden will be encouraged to play his cards late on with Clan Des Obeaux for his remaining targets this season.

“One thing he doesn’t do is a whole heap in front. In the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup last year he got to the front and half pulled himself up and got beat,” added the Ditcheat handler.

Clan Des Obeaux is 8/1 with Betfred to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 15.

Odds subject to change