LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) - Clan Des Obeaux powered to a surprise victory in the King George VI Chase on Wednesday under Harry Cobden after a dramatic race at Kempton to give trainer Paul Nicholls his 10th win in the Boxing Day showpiece.
The six-year-old, partly owned by legendary former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, defied odds of 12/1 to beat 2016 winner Thistlecrack into second place, with Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River in third.
"I'm speechless. Absolutely brilliant. I knew I was on the right one, everyone was telling me I was riding the wrong horse at the start of the week," gushed Cobden.
"He could be a serious Gold Cup contender looking at that."
The three miles were run at a fast pace thanks to 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree at the front, but Clan Des Obeaux eased through the field, cruising alongside 15-2 shot Thistlecrack before storming clear up the home straight.
It was an ultimately comfortable one-and-a-half-length victory, giving Nicholls his first success in the race since Silviniaco Conti's second win in 2014.
Second-favourite Waiting Patiently suffered a terrible stroke of luck when brought down by the falling Bristol De Mai, whose Triple Crown hopes went up in smoke after his impressive second straight Betfair Chase triumph last month.
"I am gutted. He was going well but he was just brought to a standstill," said Waiting Patiently's rider Brian Hughes.
Last year's champion Might Bite led the betting at 3-1 but, much like at Haydock in the Betfair, Nicky Henderson's charge faded badly after travelling strongly for much of the race.
Native River stayed on in his trademark game fashion for third ahead of Politologue, but never looked a serious threat to the first two home.
Earlier on Wednesday, two-time Champion Hurdle winner Buveur d'Air suffered a shock defeat by stablemate Verdana Blue in the Christmas Hurdle.
Henderson's star went off as a 2-9 odds-on favourite, but although the gelding survived a bad mistake at the third-last flight to power into the lead, he was chased down by Verdana Blue (11-2) to lose by a short nose in a photo finish.
"She's a very good mare, as you've seen all autumn. It's a bit of a surprise," said Henderson.
La Bague Au Roi edged out Topofthegame in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase to win at odds of 8-1.