By Racinguk.com staff
Clan Des Obeaux provided Paul Nicholls with a sixth successive victory in the Betfair-sponsored graduation chase at Haydock on Saturday.
The five-year-old was beaten just half a length by Whisper in a two-runner race at Kempton less than a fortnight ago and was the 3-1 joint-favourite to go one better under Harry Cobden.
Clan Des Obeaux tracked fellow market leader Vintage Clouds into the home straight, with his young rider confident in the saddle, and he eventually powered seven lengths clear.
Nicholls' assistant Harry Derham said: "Paul always likes to support these graduation chases and it's great to win this race again.
"Two and a half miles in soft ground suits this horse well. Harry (Cobden) felt it suited him being held up, rather than making the running as he had to at Kempton last time.
"The plan after Kempton was to go for the December Gold Cup at Cheltenham, but then this race came up and traditionally there aren't many runners, so he came here.
"We'll get him home and see how he is. Nothing is set in stone.
"He's only a five-year-old and hopefully he'll keep progressing."
Nicholls was at Ascot, from where he said: "He was impressive and is almost a good advert for wind ops. He had a wind op in the summer as last year he was struggling with his breathing. "We always thought he was potentially very good. He was awesome today.
"I'll enter him in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (at Cheltenham) and there is the Peterborough Chase (at Huntington) that might suit him as well."
Jedd O'Keeffe was left wondering just how far Sam Spinner might go this season after producing tremendous front-running display in the Betfair Stayers' Handicap Hurdle at Haydock.
The five-year-old won three of his four starts over hurdles last season, but this Grade Three event was a completely different level to races won at Newcastle and Catterick.
He had hinted he belonged at this level when a gallant second in last month's Silver Trophy at Chepstow, however, and dominated his rivals under an enterprising ride by Joe Colliver.
O'Keeffe said: "I was a bit worried turning for home as I wondered whether they'd come and catch him, but he kept going and I thought he was given a beautiful ride."
Colliver took the bull by the horns from flag-fall aboard Sam Spinner, quickly settling into a rhythm out in front.
The Dutchman briefly threatened to make a race of it in the home straight, but 6-1 shot Sam Spinner eventually propelled himself 17 lengths clear in the Merseyside mud.
"He's improved from Chepstow and we thought he would, not so much physically but more just in terms of his education," O'Keeffe added.
"He's been a slow learner and a big baby, but he's obviously getting there now."
Asked about future plans, the Leyburn-based trainer said: "We're going to have to discuss it.
"We were thinking about the Coral Cup (at Cheltenham) or maybe trying to qualify him for the Pertemps Final.
"Maybe we'll have to aim a bit higher now. I don't have many jumpers - he's the best I've had - and it will be exciting thumbing through the programme book.
"We could look at the Long Walk at Ascot, but is that aiming a bit high?
"I'm a bit out of my comfort zone, to be honest. We have five or six jumpers and this is new territory for me."
Limited Reserve danced clear of his rivals in the Betfair Exchange Handicap Hurdle.
The Christian Williams-trained five-year-old was runner-up to subsequent Greatwood Hurdle hero Elgin on his latest appearance at Ascot and confirmed that promise with a comfortable eight-length success under leading conditional James Bowen.
Williams said: "I think stepping up to two-mile-three helped him as he's been running over two miles on good ground and always been in full gear.
"I think his rating has gone up after his last six runs and he's been a great horse for us, running on Saturdays.
"I'd rather use his mark for a race like this than go and win by 10 lengths at Ludlow."
Delire D'Estruval dug deep to see off all comers in the Read Paul Nicholls Exclusively At Betfair Newton Novices' Hurdle at Haydock.
Ben Pauling's French recruit was beaten into fourth place when favourite for his British debut at Aintree a fortnight ago and was a 12-1 shot for the Listed opener on Merseyside.
Daryl Jacob set out to make all the running aboard the four-year-old, closely pursued by 13-8 favourite Dynamite Dollars, as well as Midnight Shadow.
The latter emerged as the biggest threat and even poked his head in front after the final flight, but Delire D'Estruval fought back bravely to prevail by a neck.
Anthony Bromley, racing manager for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, said: "We were throwing him in at the deep end a little bit, but having come from Guillaume Macaire's and run around Auteuil, when the ground came up heavy we decided to give it a go.
"Daryl decided to make the running to try to draw the speed out of the others. He's a gutsy horse and battled back.
"We've not made any big plans for him. We took a bit of a chance running him today, but it worked out well."
Speaking from Ascot, Pauling said: "It was a great ride from Daryl and he is riding out of his skin.
"The horse was as hard as nails to get headed and battle back and win it quite cosily was nice.
"No Listed race is a walk in the park and we are thrilled.
"We will have to look at a few better things now and he is a two-and-a-half-mile horse, all day long."
With a shade over three and a half miles and ultra-testing conditions facing the eight runners, it was not for the faint-hearted.
Hainan appeared to relish the test, however, negotiating his obstacles with aplomb and devouring the ground in front on his way to a 12-length success.
Winning trainer Sue Smith said: "This is obviously what he's been waiting for - three and a half miles on heavy ground.
"They're stiff fences here, but he jumped great and handled the ground well.
"We'll stick to these long-distance chases on this sort of ground on these sort of tracks."