Nine-year-old Clan Des Obeaux ended his campaign with back-to-back Grade One successes in April, taking the Betway Bowl Chase at Aintree and then the Punchestown Gold Cup.
He had begun the term in Haydock’s Betfair Chase, where he was second, and lined up as the 85-40 favourite to take a third King George having won the contest in both 2018 and 2019.
The gelding was beaten into third by stablemate Frodon and this year will sidestep the Haydock contest and head straight to Kempton in December to try to regain his title.
“This year his first run will be at Kempton in the King George and we are not going to run him before then because I think he is good fresh, and that Haydock race (Betfair Chase) takes a bit out of him,” Nicholls said.
“The idea is to go Kempton, Newbury, Aintree and Punchestown. We will probably go to Wincanton for a gallop beforehand.
“We will try to win a third King George with him and it would be great if he can do that. If Clan runs like he did at Aintree and Punchestown, he would take all the beating.”
Frodon is also due to head for the same race but will first travel to Down Royal on October 30 for the Grade One Ladbrokes Champion Chase, with Leopardstown and Cheltenham both on the table as options for 2022.
“Frodon will go back and try to defend his title but he will go to Down Royal first for the good race there, then go to Kempton and then make a plan after Christmas which route we go with him,” Nicholls said.
“He had the run of the race in the King George but he keeps surprising people all the time. However, that is the nature of the horse.
“I might go to Leopardstown with him after Christmas but we will keep all options open. We might enter him in the Gold Cup. I know Mr (Paul) Vogt (owner) would like to run him in that but I’m not totally convinced that is his race.
“There are plenty of good races for him. Ultimately, he loves Sandown on the last day of the season and the Oaksey Chase.”
Politologue won his second Tingle Creek Chase last term and then went on to finish second in the Clarence House at Ascot, but a run in the Marsh Chase at Aintree saw him well beaten when coming home 25 lengths behind the winner.
The grey could bid for a third Tingle Creek come December, with the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham and the Desert Orchid at Kempton other options before a possible tilt at regaining the Queen Mother Champion Chase title he lifted in 2020.
“He is 10 going on 11 but he is still as enthusiastic as ever,” said Nicholls.
“He won the Tingle Creek last year but it is looking even stronger on paper this year.
“The other option is to go for the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham as he loves it there and then the Desert Orchid at Kempton. We would then give him a nice break and go fresh to Cheltenham. That is one option to do those three.
“John (Hales, owner) was going to retire him but his daughter Lisa, like me, has seen that he still has that enthusiasm. I bet he will run a blinder first time out.”
Cheltenham could also be the destination for Cyrname, with the Gold Cup not ruled out should his prior Wetherby outing go to plan.
“He will go straight to the Charlie Hall which he won last year,” Nicholls said.
“I doubt he will have an entry in the King George this year as I think we have worked out that it doesn’t really suit him. There will be other options for him.
“I wouldn’t be afraid to enter him in the Gold Cup if he won the Charlie Hall. If we went there fresh I think Cheltenham might suit him, as he has got time to fill his lungs up and it is left handed, but that is a long way off yet.
“He doesn’t want to run too often as he is not easy to get right but when he is, he is good.”