A Day Spent With Paul Nicholls

A Day Spent With Paul Nicholls

What a glorious Tuesday afternoon in sunny Somerset.

The blue sky had not a single cloud, the views from the gallops were memorising, and the build-up towards the Cheltenham Festival now very much heating up itself.

We were in Ditcheat - home to ten-times Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls, as he readied and paraded some of his stable stars in front of the cameras and other members of the press.

Nicholls - with 43 Festival wins to his name, has certainly hit a flat spot in his training career in the last few years, after the historic days of the likes of Denman and Kauto Star now seeming a distant memory.

However, he seems to be back on 'top of the game' - remember the name, with multiple Festival hopefuls heading to Prestbury Park in under two weeks time, having also struck with his 3000th winner last week at Exeter with the grey Capitaine.

The 56-year-old has not won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in ten years now, but he does seem to have one, if not two leading chances this time around.

Clan Des Obeaux has followed the same route as Nicholls last winner - Kauto Star, who won the race three times.

Clan - only a 7yo, is the same age as when Kauto won his first Gold Cup, and Nicholls believes he can fulfil his potential, having had the perfect preparation with wins this season in the King George and Denman Chase latest.

Meanwhile, Nicholls could also send Frodon, who has defied all the odds this season in terms of weight carried, and proved he can stay the distance in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham last time out.

Nicholls - who is fine form this season, leads the way in the Trainers Championship with thanks to an incredible day last Saturday at Ascot, where he was in the winners enclosure five times, and celebrated an across the card eight-timer.

He looks to have plenty of fine looking novices this term - whether that be over hurdles of fences.

Grand Sancy has progressed nicely this term, and has some eye-catching Grade One/Two form stacked in the book. He looks to be heading for the Supreme.

Elsewhere, Posh Trish is a mare that Nicholls is very keen on, as he confirmed her entry in the Dawn Run Mares Novices Hurdle and could just be a really impressive six year old.

Yet arguably his biggest fancy in this novice category, is Topofthegame, who was a neck second in last year's Coral Cup to Bleu Berry, and has had a fine first season over fences.

The seven year old looks a really progressive but also confident horse that loves to go forward from a long way out. Nicholls expressed that his jumping will need some fine tuning but has been very happy with the work he has been doing at home.

Like any successful trainer, the Ditcheat man has one eye on the future, and looks to be well represented in the JCB Triumph Hurdle for the juveniles.

Entered with the likes of Ecco, Pic D'Orhy and Red Force One, the individual that really stands out is Quel Destin - twice a Grade Two winner and a Grade One victor at Chepstow.

The 4yo has been a great acquisition to the yard, and Nicholls believes despite the well fancied Sir Erec making the trip over from Ireland, his lad will be hard to stop.

Finally, Cyrname was the last to be paraded in front of the press - a horse was confirmed to not run at Cheltenham.

However, he inevitably is the current star attraction at the Manor Farm Stables, having recently been announced as the best rated horse in the National Hunt sphere.

That rating; which is larger than Nicky Henderson's Champion Chaser Altior, has got everyone talking of late. The two could clash down the line, but after his demolition job at Ascot, Nicholls provided an update on how the 7yo has come out of the race, and where we could see him next.

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