Paul Nicholls Stable Tour: Cheltenham Festival 2022

Paul Nicholls Stable Tour: Cheltenham Festival 2022

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 Greaneteen 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.

Bravemansgame

7yo bay gelding

Form: 32-1111

Target: Brown Advisory Chase

Won the Grade 1 Challow as a novice hurdler last season before finishing third behind Bob Olinger in the Ballymore at the Festival. Always had the physique of a chaser, though, and has been flawless in winning four starts over fences so far, his accurate jumping already a key asset for one so inexperienced. Added another Grade 1 in the Kauto Star in December and defied a mark of 159 to win a Newbury handicap last weekend. About as exciting a prospect as there is amongst the British novice chasers.

Danny Kirwan

9yo bay gelding

Form: 671-241

Target: Grand Annual

Long held a big reputation and has belatedly began to fulfil some of his promise as a chaser this season, winning in impressive fashion after a bold round of jumping at Wincanton last time out. Still somewhat of a stranger to the big fields he will encounter at Cheltenham and has an occasional tendency to finish rather tamely, but he’s certainly an improved animal over fences and merits his place at the Festival.

Greaneteen

8yo bay gelding

Form: 41-4125

Target: Champion Chase

Progressive last season, arguably unlucky to only finish fourth in Champion Chase before notching a first Grade 1 win in the Celebration Chase at the end of the season. Proving that was no fluke winning the Tingle Creek this year, but has since met defeat at the hands of Shishkin and Chacun Pour Soi on his last two starts. Certainly proven he is up to winning weaker Grade 1s but the two-mile division looks very strong at the top end, and it would be a surprise if he were to prove a match for the current leading lights.

Gelino Bello

6yo bay gelding

Form: 13-1224

Target: Martin Pipe HurdlePlaced in a brace of Cheltenham Grade 2 novice events in the winter before making a promising start in handicaps with a fourth-placed finish in a competitive renewal of the Lanzarote. Still remains with potential for improvement in that sphere after only four starts over hurdles so far, and with the Martin Pipe the likeliest Festival destination according to the bookmakers.

Hitman

6yo bay gelding

Form: F13-223

Target: Champion Chase/Ryanair

Still yet to win a Graded race but has notched up a solid profile for one still young, running the best race of his life to finish runner-up to stablemate Greaneteen in the Tingle Creek. Below his best last time, and would need to show a new level of form if he were to win either the Champion Chase and Ryanair, of which he has entries in both.

Iceo

4yo bay gelding

Form: 114

Target: Boodles Handicap Hurdle

Looked a fine prospect when following his Dieppe win in the summer up with a bloodless victory at Kempton over Christmas, though badly underwhelmed when only fourth in the Triumph Trial here in January. Likely to prove better than that in time and it will be interesting to see if he can get back on track in handicap company in the Boodles.

Il Ridoto

5yo bay gelding

Form: U2-31P3

Target: Grand Annual

Won twice over hurdles for French maestro Guillaume Macaire last season and created a striking impression on his second British start when bolting up in a strong Newbury event in Newbury. Things haven’t quite gone his way in better races the last twice, so Graded races look out of the picture, but he remains unexposed if reverted back to handicap company.

Lalor

10yo bay gelding

Form: 33PP-36

Target: Paddy Power Plate

Once highly promising, having won a Grade 1 novice hurdle at Aintree in 2018 before a similarly exciting start to a novice chasing campaign was quickly derailed by problems. Joined Nicholls from Kayley Woollacott at the start of the season and ran his best race for a long time when third in the Paddy Power on stable debut. Possibly has something to prove again after a below form effort next time but has built up a decent recent record in Cheltenham handicaps.

Magic Saint

8yo bay gelding

Form: P2-7546

Target: Grand Annual/Plate

Very much a regular in top handicaps across the past couple of seasons, winning over two miles at Cheltenham in November 2020. Has slipped in the weights without being particularly disgraced in the last year so and may be one to keep an eye on in either the Grand Annual over two miles, or the Plate over an intermediate trip. He’s certainly more exposed than many will be in either event, but he has a good record at Cheltenham and may look well handicapped come March.

Pic D’Orhy

7yo bay gelding

Form: 24-1F13

Target: Turners Novice Chase

Betfair Hurdle winner in his younger days and has made a fine fist of a second spell novice chasing, winning at Ffos Las and the Grade 2 Noel Novices’ Chase at Ascot either side of a late fall when looking sure to have won the Berkshire Novices’ Chase at Newbury. Reportedly returned with an issue when only third in the Scilly Isles last time, but he wouldn’t be silliest each-way longshot if back in time to take up his engagement in the Turners.

Saint Calvados

9yo bay gelding

Form: 22/4U-3

Target: Ryanair Chase

Came to within a neck of beating Min in the 2020 Ryanair when trained by Harry Whittington and shaped with promise when third in the King George on his sole start to date for Nicholls. Still retains the air of a horse with a big race in him and should prove amongst the chief threats to Allaho is this year’s Ryanair. In the absence of Clan Des Obeaux and Frodon, both of whom miss Cheltenham, probably takes the mantle of Nicholls’ number-one senior chaser.

Simply The Betts

9yo bay gelding

Form: 1/6-6P25

Target: Plate/Ultima

Heavily supported to win the Plate in 2020 when trained by Harry Whittington, though has had his issues since and hasn’t quite scaled the heights into open Graded company as may have been expected after that. Nevertheless, he ran his best race for the Nicholls yard when runner-up from a mark of 153 in the New Year’s Day Chase here, and that form would see him merit consideration again for another Plate bid. Connections have tried three miles with him twice this season, so it would be no shock if he were to also feature amongst the entries in the Ultima.

Silver Forever

8yo grey mare

Form: 1131/11

Target: Mares Chase

Listed winner as a hurdler and returned from nearly two years off the track beating the useful Imperial Alcazar in a match at Haydock and proved even better when winning in Listed company on only her second start over fences, impressing again with a good round of jumping. Remains open to improvement as a chaser and she’s not without a chance of giving the Irish something to think about in the Mares Chase.

Stage Star

6yo bay gelding

Form: 123-111

Target: Ballymore Hurdle

Smart in bumpers last season and has continued his progression as a hurdler this campaign, winning all three starts over timber, the first two of which at a price of 2-7, before taking a smooth step into Grade 1 company, winning the Challow Hurdle in untroubled fashion. Likely to continue improving and there’s no stronger British contender for the Ballymore.

Threeunderthrufive

7yo bay gelding

Form: 1-21111

Target: National Hunt Chase

Sixth in the Albert Bartlett as a novice hurdler last season but chasing was always going to be his game, winning his last four starts over fences, most recently a pair of Grade 2s at Doncaster and Warwick. Those weren’t strong races for the grade, and he’ll likely need to up his game to fend off the Irish challenge in the National Hunt Chase, but he’s already established a fine record and looks the best of the home team for that event.