Paul Nicholls Stable Tour: Cheltenham Festival 2023

Paul Nicholls Horse Trainer

Jake Russell | @JakeRuss1000

Paul Nicholls Stable Tour: Cheltenham Festival 2023

The Ditcheat handler did not have any winners at the festival last term and this season we’ve taken a look at some of Nicholls’ stable stars to follow at the Cheltenham festival, with him looking to go much better.

Paul Nicholls is third most successful trainer in Cheltenham festival history with 45 winners and although prioritising Aintree over Cheltenham last term, he seems to have some big guns to field this time around.

The likes of Bravemansgame and Hermes Allen are just some of his Grade One winners already this season, but with plenty more set to tackle the Cheltenham hill, we’ve taken a look at some of Nicholls’ stable stars to follow.


6yo Bay Gelding

Target - Supreme or Ballymore

A horse for Paul Nicholls that is slightly going under the radar heading into this year's festival, he is currently unbeaten over hurdles, with the record of 3 wins in just 3 starts, including a Grade 1 Tolworth win at Sandown last time out. That Tolworth Hurdle performance was fairly decent to the eye, although the form in behind is slightly questionable, considering the horse that won the race last year (Constitution Hill) but you can only beat what's in front of you. He hung left on occasions that day, but did jump fairly well on the most parts and did stay on well up the Sandown straight, which a lot of Novices struggle with, but he seemed to handle it pretty well. A potential step up in trip might be on the cards further down the line at some stage, and there are question marks on if he is quick enough to win a Championship race over 2 miles against some speedier horses, but his record speaks for itself, he is clearly a talented individual for a top class stable. 


8yo Bay Gelding 

Target - Ultima

A Grade 2 winner over fences at Warwick last January, he hasn't particularly backed up any decent form since, but does have an entry for the Grand National in April. He ran pretty well at last year's Festival, contesting in the mud in the Brown Advisory, but was outpaced up the hill, with the ground probably not suiting him. He ran in the Classic Chase at Warwick last time out, a usual trial for the Grand National, and although he was beaten by just under 18 lengths, he was runner well up until he made a mistake at the 2nd fence, where he lost all momentum up the home straight, and did fade back to a 6th place finish. That was a solid enough run, and if he didn't make that crucial mistake late on, he might have finished further up the field. He looks to be targeted as a thorough stayer in the making, so he could be one to run well at a course he normally does well at. 


4yo Bay Gelding

Target - Boodles or Triumph 

A French flat import who was in decent form for his previous trainer overseas, winning 1 race out of 3 runs in France, he has taken to Hurdles fairly well since joining the Champion trainer, winning his first two runs over obstacles. He won on Hurdle debut at Taunton back in January, before going on to Scottish Triumph success at Musselburgh at the start of the month, jumping well before staying on stoutly all the way to the line. That was a fairly decent performance, but he struggled to back that up at Haydock recently, when beaten into sixth by just under 50 lengths. Paul Nicholls came out after the race and stated the race potentially came to soon for him, hence the disappointing run that day. He has obviously had a busy time of things recently and we just don't know what the last run left on him. But his Scottish Triumph Hurdle success shows he is clearly a talented individual, and is in the best hands to progress even further.    

Hermes Allen

6yo Bay Gelding

Target - Ballymore or Albert Bartlett

Arguably one of the most impressive Novice Hurdlers we have seen this season so far, and probably Paul Nicholls's best chance of a winner for the Festival. He is currently unbeaten over hurdles, with 3 wins in 3 starts over the obstacles. Winning by 27 lengths on debut at Stratford, before going on to win the Grade 2 Ballymore Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham in November, beating Music Drive by 9 lengths. Winning form at Cheltenham over the trip is worth its weight in gold for Novices, and he has that firmly in his locker, especially heading towards the festival period. But more importantly, his performance next time out in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury was a career best, beating a subsequent Grade 2 winner by an easy 5 lengths, jumping well to win eased down at a canter. That was an excellent performance, really showing he is quite versatile ground wise, with various horses in behind him that day not running well in that race (Due to the ground) but coming out to win since. His form stacks up well, and his performance last time out will suggest he can be a force no matter which he race is aimed for.     

Stage Star

7yo Bay Gelding

Target - Brown Advisory, Turners or Plate

Last year's Challow Novices Hurdle winner has always had firm plans of being a chaser by connections, and you can see why after his excellent performance last time out. His record currently reads 3 wins in 4 starts over the larger obstacles, winning at Warwick on chase debut, before going on to come 2nd in a Grade 2 at Newbury when expected to win, which might have slightly dented his reputation at the time. He then won a two-runner race at Plumpton, before going on to put in probably a career best performance carrying top weight in a Cheltenham handicap, jumping the best he has done to make all win going away up the hill by just under 4 lengths. Weight carrying performances are often done anymore, so when there is one you can't help but feel he could be a graded horse running in a handicap, especially when lumping around top weight in the soft at Cheltenham. His performance last time out was excellent, and I would imagine he will be aimed at one of the Graded Novice Chases at the Festival next month. He certainly has the potential to take the step back up in class again and run well should all go his way. 


9yo Bay Gelding

Target - Brown Advisory or Turners

Another horse for the yard who has always been touted as more of a chaser than hurdler, and McFabolous has become a bit of an enigma since going over the larger obstacles. When he is on song and everything is going right for him, he is impressive, but things can often go wrong for him, which he has shown on a few occasions this season already. He landed the Grade 2 Select Hurdle last April, and has won two races over fences this season including a Grade 2 at Newbury, beating Thyme Hill by just over 6 lengths. The form of that race has since been reversed, when McFabolous disappointed next time out in a Grade 1 at Kempton, beaten by 15 lengths. He did look happy that day, but was reported to have finished lame after the race. He was then well fancied to put that race behind him next time out at Newbury, but pulled up before the 13th fence, never travelling at all. Another report came out after the race from the vet that he had an irregular heartbeat, which will explain the poor showing. On his day he is a talented individual, but that can be hard to come by at times.  

Irish Hill

5yo Grey Gelding

Target - Coral Cup or Martin Pipe

Another horse that always has his supporters when running, going off as favourite in his last seven runs, winning 4 of those contests and placing in the rest. He is a very consistent sort, who hasn't particularly run a bad race in his life, including when he was running on the flat in France. He holds the record of 5 wins in 10 hurdle starts, and although hasn't contested at Graded levels, he does look a nice horse when running on his races, especially his last run when winning nicely at Ascot by just under 2 lengths. The winning margin doesn't suggest how won he won last time out, as he cruised into the race nicely and was eased down towards the finish, resulting in him only getting a 6lb raise by the handicapper. Off the mark of 134, he heads into the festival off a nice mark as he will look to tackle Cheltenham for the very first time, and will no doubt run his usual consistent self no matter race he is heading for.    

Outlaw Peter

7yo Bay Gelding

Target - Coral Cup 

Another consistent type for the yard (Apart from when he pulled up at Kempton in January, where the soft ground didn't suit) he is another one that probably isn't quite up to the graded standard, but is a decent handicapper if all goes well for him. He did finish 2nd in the Persian War at Chepstow in October, and ran well considering it was his first run of the season, but it's clear that sort of ground does suit him, so should it get any softer at the festival, he might be pulled out from the race. He tackled a step up in trip for the first time at Musselburgh at the start of the month, where he run with credit to finish 2nd by just a nose. He was leading coming up to the line but was outstayed by the eventual winner, showing he probably isn't quite ready for the step up in trip as yet, He is clearly talented on his day all being well, so is one to keep an eye on should the ground be on the better side.   

Red Risk

8yo Bay Gelding

Target - Coral Cup

Another consistent handicapping sort for the team at Ditcheat, he was tried over fences in 2021 but that unfortunately didn't quite work out for him, but he did win well at Newbury last November over the 2m4f trip over the smaller obstacles. He jumped nicely and was running with a nice rhythm for Harry Cobden, before keeping on all the way up the straight to win by just over 4 lengths. Arguably a career best performance came last time out in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton, where he battled all the way to the line to just get touched off into 2nd, only beaten by a short head. he was incredibly game that day, but probably should have won, only just being passed by the winner coming up towards the line. The 2m5f probably is just far enough for him, and he will need everything to fall right for him on the day should he compete at the festival.    


9yo Bay Gelding

Target - Champion Chase

One of the more under the radar stars for the Nicholls team, he currently holds the record of 8 wins in 17 career runs over fences, including a Tingle Creek victory in 2021, and a Grade 1 Celebration Chase last April. He always seems to run well in his races, and was second in last year's feature race at Sandown, only to be beaten by Edwardstone who is well fancied for the Champion Chase this year. There is a slight question mark on his abilities at present though, as he did disappoint last time out when running in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury, where perhaps the good ground played into the strengths of the other horses. He finished fourth in the Champion Chase a few years back, only to be beaten by 2 lengths in a close finish, which was a better run than the finishing position stated. He would need to up his game, especially from the last run, but he was coming off a two-month break at the time, so that would put him in A1 order for the feature 2-mile chase at the festival this year. 

Thyme White

7yo Bay Gelding

Target - Grand Annual 

Thyme White looked quite impressive on his first run this season when contesting in a Grade 3 Handicap contest at Ascot, beating Frero Banbou by a ready 5 lengths, jumping well all the way around before surging up the Ascot straight to win nicely. He did run slightly flat next time out though, when running at Ascot again to only finish 5th out of 8 runners, beaten by just under 14 lengths. Everything was in his favour that day, so it is slightly odd why he put in a disappointing run last time out, but he was dropped 2lb's after that run, putting him only 5lb's above the winning mark from his seasonal debut run where he was quite impressive. 


5yo Chesnut Gelding

Target - Champion Bumper 

A winner in a point to point over 3 miles before joining the team at Ditcheat, he was a very impressive bumper winner on his rules debut at Exeter in January, making all to win at a canter with his rivals more than 24 lengths behind. That was a very taking performance from him, and was in heavy conditions as well, so it's clear he will be a staying type in the making. He was a tad disappointing next time out however in what looks like it could be a decent bumper race, where he was sent off the odds on favourite again. He showed a bit more greenness in the race, and struggled to land a blow on his impressive winning stable mate, to finish 14 lengths behind the first two finishers. He is a big price for the bumper, and there are question marks on whether he will run, but no matter the outcome, judging by his debut win he is a horse to keep an eye on going forward.      

Jet Of Magic

7yo Bay Gelding

Target - Pertemps Final

A multiple previous winner for Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero, he has run some decent races for Paul Nicholls since going to his stable, including a nice 3rd place finish in a Pertemps Qualifier at Sandown, only beaten by just over fourth lengths by Green Book and Call Me Lord. There might be slight question marks on his class capabilities, is he good enough to win a red-hot race at the Cheltenham Festival, but he is a decent stayer and will be thereabouts should all go his way. His unseating last time out was early on in the race, a contest that he was the short priced favourite for, so confidence aside he should all be ok to line up at the festival next month. 


7yo Bay Gelding

Target - Ryanair or Plate

A horse that connections and racing fans have always thought a lot of, especially leading up to the King George in December where he unfortunately didn't run his race, pulling up and having reported to have blood coming from his nose. He was none the worse after that race, lining up in the Grade 2 Denman Chase at Newbury recently where he ran a decent enough 2nd, beaten by 7 lengths by a quickly improving Zanza. He was expected to win that day, and looked like the winner heading to the home straight, but a mistake at the 2nd last presented the opportunity to the eventual winner who was running away towards the line. Perhaps the stepping up to 3 miles hasn't exactly suited as connections would like, so they might opt to drop him back down to a trip he has been winning at previously, including a Grade 1 2nd at Aintree last April. He is clearly a talented horse on his day, but has now shown signs of bleeding after a run which might leave a few questions marks whenever he lines up to run. 

Saint Calvados

10yo Bay Gelding 

Target - Ryanair 

A horse who has been quite talented in the past, including a 2nd place finish behind Min in the Ryanair at the festival in 2020, only to be beaten by a neck. He was with his previous trainer Harry Whittington, and he has been a winner for new his yard, including a classy performance in the Grade 2 Oaksey Chase at Sandown last April, beating Mister Fisher by 16 lengths. He has looked slightly below his best this season, getting beaten by 21 lengths into fourth at Kempton in January. He has run well in the Ryanair previously, so if he could reproduce that sort of form he might outrun his current odds, but that is a big ask for a horse who seems to be regressing more than progressing.   

Il Ridoto

6yo Bay Gelding

Target - Plate

Another horse trained by Paul Nicholls that has come on leaps and bounds this season, he has won two of his 11 starts over fences, including a decent performance in a Grade 3 Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last month, beating Fugitif by a length. He was always keeping on nicely that day, with a top-class ride from Harry Cobden. They did pull almost 16 lengths clear from the rest of the field that day, with some other nice types in behind also. He has been raised 8lbs for that success, with the current rating of 146 behind his highest career mark, a mark he hasn't been near to winning at as yet, which shows progression from him. He has the perfect mold to win a big field handicap at the festival, so he might be one to keep a close eye on, with some Cheltenham form previously which is worth its weight in gold.     

Flic Ou Voyou

9yo Bay Gelding

Target - Plate

Another runner for the Ditcheat team that comes here in high order, off the back of a decent winning performance in a Handicap chase over 2m4f last time out at Wincanton. He probably wasn't very fluent when jumping, which you would think put stop to his chances of winning, but he stayed on stoutly down the home straight to fend of Balko Saint by a neck, after a top ride from Bryony Frost who rode a treble that day. His record over fences sits at a very respectable 3 wins in 9 runs, but he is yet to dip his toe into Graded contests, so going to the festival might catch him out. He's an improving sort however, with his peak career rating of now 139, he is the type to be looking for in these big field handicaps, that are notoriously competitive. 

Rare Middleton

4yo Bay Gelding

Target - Triumph

A relatively new recruit for the Nicholls team, who appeared to be a decent horse on the flat in Ireland, coming 2nd on his debut in a 24-runner field, before going on to win at Leopardstown by half a length. He changed hands to the Nicholls yard in October 2022, and had his first run for the yard in a Maiden Hurdle at Taunton where he was sent off the odds on favourite. He took a keen hold in the early stages of the race, and did jump right on the odd occasion, before going on to lead down the home straight to win cosily by three quarters of a length. The winning margin doesn't really suggest how nice of a performance that was, considering he was keen early on and was novicey at some jumps, but he ran on readily up the straight when popped the question by Harry Cobden. It remains to be seen how good he is, with just the one Hurdle run to his name, but judging by the fact connections have entered him in this contest surely suggest they think quite a lot of him at home.   

Hacker Des Places

6yo Grey Gelding

Target - County Hurdle or Martin Pipe

A horse that has a fair bit of attention for the handicap races going into the festival this year after some decent performances in handicap races of late. He was a fair enough 2nd on seasonal debut, well beaten by clearly needed the run, before going on to win a 15-runner field at Cheltenham in January with some nice types in behind, including Might I who he beat by a neck, staying on all the way to the line after hanging left up the hill. He has a few entries before the festival, so question marks on whether he goes to the festival, it will all depend on how he fairs in the races he has been entered up for in the meantime.


5yo Bay Gelding

Target - County Hurdle or Martin Pipe

One of the morse unexposed runners in this field, the Paul Nicholls trained horse has only had the five career runs, one for previous trainer in France when winning at Dieppe, before having four runs for his new yard this year which included a win on debut at Kempton in December 2021. He is yet to back that win up with anything else since in terms of winning, but has run some nice races in defeat, including in two Grade 2's at the back end of his Novice hurdling season, finishing fourth on both attempts. He was last seen lining up at Sandown in January, which was his first run for almost 11 months, to which he ran a very nice race to blow away the cobwebs ready for a tilt at a race at the Festival. He finished 3 lengths behind Hardy Du seuil that day, who Iceo was giving a bit of weight to, and that 11 months break beforehand. He looks to have a decent mark of 132, and the fact he hasn't ran since January shows there might be a bit of a protection element to that handicap rating. 

Stay Away Fay

6yo Bay Gelding

Target - Albert Bartlett

A winner in a point to point over 3 miles, he is another one that does look to be a nice stayer in the making, and he has shown that over the two hurdle races he has competed in so far. A winner over 2m4f on his hurdling debut at Newbury in November, he ran nicely and was always staying on very late in the contest, to win going away by 5 easy lengths. He was quite well fancied to back that up when tackling 3 miles for the first time at Doncaster last month, lining up in the Grade 2 River Don Novices Hurdle, usually a trial for the Albert Bartlett. He was slightly unlucky in running, when pushing for him, jumping with not much fluency before getting a bit short of room coming up to the last, where he again made a mistake to let the eventual winner go on by a length. Although he probably should have won that contest, he ran with real credit, and with more luck in running he might put his staying powers to better use up the Cheltenham Hill.           


8yo Bay Gelding

Target - Gold Cup

A horse going into the festival with an ever-growing reputation amongst the racing in the UK, arguably our best chance when it comes to the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year. Often referred to as some of the previous greats he has trained, Paul Nicholls clearly loves this horse, who seems to come on with every run even still. His record over fences currently stands at 6 wins in just 7 career starts, with the only blemish coming at Aintree last year, where nothing seemed to go right for him. But he has produced more positive performances than negative ones, epically this season, where he was a very classy winner on seasonal re-appearance in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, jumping with ease to win by just under 4 lengths, running on well all the way to the line. He then lined straight up in the King George on Boxing day, where he blitzed the field to win by 14 lengths, which might not have been that much should his market rival had not fell at the last. Take nothing away from that performance though, he jumped nicely and was always going to win the race. He will have to take an even further step up in trip for the Gold Cup, which does raise a few questions, but he is obviously going to go into the race with plenty of support, and I can see why given his performance in the King George.   

Secret Investor

11yo Bay Gelding

Target - Hunter Chase

A classy horse in his time, who was a Grade 2 winner at Newbury in 2021 beating the likes of Clan Des Obeaux by a neck, who looks to have found another lease of life in Hunter Chases. He was a well fancied runner at Bangor earlier this month, where he went on to show his class in this sphere, by keeping on nicely to win by just under 2 lengths. He then backed that up with another top performance at Kelso under Charlie Sprake, making all to readily win by an easy 13 lengths. He has looked a cut above the rest in his first two Hunter Chase runs, and is previous form is classy showing he is a nice stayer to go to war with in these types of races. He will have to contend with younger rivals who will mostly head the market at the festival, but he still looks as sharp as ever and could go well.