Paul Nicholls Cheltenham Stable Tour 2020

Paul Nicholls Cheltenham Stable Tour 2020

There are a few people that know more about winning National Hunt races than Paul Nicholls.

An 11-time Champion Trainer and currently third on the list of leading trainers at the Festival with 45 winners, he certainly knows a thing or two about being first past the post when it matters.

He scored a double at the meeting last year with Frodon’s victory in the Ryanair and Topofthegame in the RSA Chase, and is set to have another string of contenders at this year’s meeting.

Luke Parkinson takes a look at some of the big names from Team Ditcheat including leading fancies in the Champion Chase, Triumph Hurdle and the Gold Cup.

Alcala

 10-y-o; grey gelding

 Form: 426-F12

Verdict: Rated as high as 152 over fences, which came after winning the Summer Plate at Market Rasen back in summer 2018. He was niggled with injuries the following season and has been sent hunter chasing on his return this year.

He tipped up at the second last on his first start in that sphere at Ludlow, but was a good winner the next time at Haydock and secured qualification for the Foxhunters with a narrow defeat to Bob And Co at Fontwell.

Off his current mark, he’s clearly got plenty of class but his two career runs at Cheltenham suggest it might not be the track for him.

Brelan D’as

 9-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 135-U28

Verdict: Finished third in the Grand Annual at the Festival last year and is many people’s idea of the winner of that race this year.

However, Paul Nicholls has suggested he will go for the Plate, and that might not be a bad idea after Brelan D’as was second to Happy Diva in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham back in November.

It’s clearly a track that brings out a little extra in him and he’ll head to the big meeting with a fighting chance.

Capeland

 8-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 84-D145

Verdict: Most racing fans will remember Capeland for his collision with Diego Du Charmil earlier this season, but he quickly bounced back from that by winning a valuable handicap back at Ascot.

He’s been disappointing in two Graded races since then, but might be just a bit too good for handicap company as is suggested by his current rating of 153.

The Grand Annual is his target, and if he can get a good gallop, he’d be a live outsider.

Clan Des Obeaux

 8-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 1152-21

Verdict: You quite simply write off Clan Des Obeaux at your peril.

Now a two-time King George winner, you get the feeling he is slightly overpriced heading for a second crack at the Gold Cup.

He ran well for a long way in the big race last season, but probably just didn’t quite stay on up the hill.

Nicholls has reported him to be a much better horse this season and if his performance in the King George on Boxing Day is anything to go by, he is a serious contender in the blue-ribbon event this time, especially going there fresh.

Dynamite Dollars

 7-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 12111-3

Verdict: Was in excellent form last season winning four of his five starts, including the Grade One Henry VII Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

He suffered a leg injury not long after that run and was ruled out for the rest of the season.

That made his recent return all the more impressive, finishing just over three lengths behind Altior in the Game Spirit at Newbury.

Considering he won’t have been race sharp that day, you’d expect there to be some improvement still to come and that could make him a danger in a soft ground Champion Chase.

Frodon

 8-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 111-331

Verdict: Landed the Ryanair with a brilliant front-running performance at Cheltenham last year and is ready to partner with Bryony Frost once again for the follow-up bid.

He was outpaced on his return this season when a few flights were taken out in the home straight at Aintree and then ulcers were found after his run in the Betfair Chase.

He has bounced back since then though and was close to his best when winning the Silviniaco Conti Chase last time.

Cheltenham is very much his playground and you’d expect another bold showing.

Greaneteen

 6-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 11-0111

Verdict: A winner of five of his eight starts for Paul Nicholls, most notably the Scottish Champion Chase at Musselburgh in February.

He has tasted Graded company, but disappointed to finish 13th in the Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Chepstow in October.

Over fences though, he is three from three and in Paul Nicholls’ opinion, that stands him in good stead for a crack at the Grand Annual before another go at Graded company at Aintree.

Mick Pastor

 4-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 161

Verdict: Joined Paul Nicholls in the summer after impressively winning his only start at Auteuil in the spring.

He then ran at Cheltenham in November, but didn’t have his ground and was later treated for ulcers which required him to take a short break.

That proved to do just the trick as he bolted in at Ludlow on his latest start and is now in the picture for both the Boodles and the Triumph.

Politologue

 9-y-o; grey gelding

 Form: 4422-25

Verdict: Is now without a win since November 2018 at Ascot, but has ran some good races in defeat, most notably when second to Altior in the Champion Chase last season.

He also came close to Defi Du Seuil in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November, although he was well beaten by that same rival on his most recent start in the Tingle Creek.

He’d have some work to do against the best in this division, but he has some strong form around Cheltenham and that can count for a lot.

Quel Destin

 5-y-o; chestnut gelding

 Form: 5-18512

Verdict: Well raced for a five-year-old, but seems to be the better for it and has backed us a solid novice campaign over hurdles, with some nice runs this season.

He’s two from six this campaign, including a victory on heavy ground at Cheltenham back in October.

He clearly has some ability and if it does keep on raining then he could have something to say in the County Hurdle.

Saint Sonnet

 5-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 115631

Verdict: Has seen plenty of the racecourse in France, but made a winning start for Paul Nicholls at Exeter in late February, beating Crixus’s Escape by a comfortable margin on heavy ground.

Three of his four wins in France also came under similar conditions and you’d have to think he needs that kind of ground to be seen to best effect at Cheltenham, where the Marsh is the most likely route.

Sir Psycho

 4-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 41411

Verdict: Has won three of his seven starts, including an impressive victory in the Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle at Haydock last month.

He has been confirmed as a runner in the Triumph Hurdle and was looking to be the yard’s main hope in that race until the emergence of Solo.

He still isn’t without a chance and a fast run race will really aid his chances.

Solo

 4-y-o; bay colt

 Form: 211

Verdict: A winner in two of his three starts, most impressively on his first start for Paul Nicholls at Kempton.

That was an easy 15 length win of the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle and put him straight to the top of the market for the Triumph Hurdle.

He clearly has a huge amount of potential and could be the latest stable star to come for Ditcheat.

Nicholls won the race with Celestial Halo in 2008 and Zarkandar in 2011, but this lad could pip those two in the talent stakes at the very least.

Thyme White

 4-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 221

Verdict: Another of the youngster at Paul Nicholls’ disposal heading to Cheltenham.

A winner in France, he moved to Nicholls last year and has won two of his three starts since then, with his victory coming in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle trial at Musselburgh.

His trainer is targeting the Boodles with him and expects him to be competitive of a mark of 133.

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