Trainer Paul Nicholls and the Cheltenham Festival

Paul Nicholls hosted a media day in the run-up to the Cheltenham Festival and over 90 turned up to see him parade some 25 horses including Kauto Star and Denman who are going head to head again in the £475,000 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.

 

He plans to run five horses in chasing’s championship race, with Taranis, Tricky Trickster and My Will joining the two stable stars, while What A Friend, part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, will be targeted instead at Aintree and Punchestown.

 

The trainer said: “I wasn’t too perturbed with what happened the other day at Newbury to Denman. Horses are not going to win every time. I was very happy with his run apart from the mistake he made four out where he slipped on landing. He would have won otherwise.

“I have looked at the recordings and he was in exactly the same place in the AON as he was when he won the Hennessy. If he had made the same mistake in the Hennessy, he would not have won the Hennessy. He was nowhere near ready the other day and that will have woken him up. You don’t want them at their very best in trial races.

“If you had seen him do a racecourse gallop at Exeter before the Hennessy, you would not have thought he’d win an egg and spoon race, let alone the Hennessy. Those sorts of days bring them along.

“Since Newbury, we have got a different horse. He has been tanking along and he worked great this morning – he will have three weeks of seriously hard graft now. Anyone who writes him off, writes him off at their peril.

“All this nonsense about whether Tony McCoy is capable of riding him is the biggest load of twaddle I have heard in all my years in racing. He is champion jockey and will ride him well in the Gold Cup. He was unlucky the other day.”

Turning to the reigning champion Kauto Star, he commented: “He is well forward in his coat. As last year, once he had won the King George we decided that he did not need to run again before the Gold Cup. He goes really well when he is very, very fit and very, very fresh.

“He improved a lot from the Betfair Chase to the King George. Ruby (Walsh) said Kauto Star needed it at Haydock and he was phenomenal again at Kempton. I think the King George was as good a run as he has ever put up.

“He looks fantastic – we are very, very happy with his progress. He did a nice bit of work this morning and it is now a question of fine tuning him.

“Ruby came over on Saturday and schooled him and the other main Cheltenham challengers. He was happy with them.”

Nicholls, the son of a policeman, was born on 17 April, 1962, and has been training at Manor Farm Stables in Ditcheat, Somerset, since taking out a licence on 1 November, 1991. 

He started out in racing as a jump jockey and twice rode the winner of the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury – in 1986 on Broadheath and a year later on Playschool, both sent out by Devon trainer David Barons.

Nicholls partnered 130 winners between 1980 and 1989, struggling always to keep his weight down, and nominates the best horses he rode as Broadheath, Playschool and Seagram.

Between 1989 and 1991, he was assistant trainer to Barons, who sent out Seagram to win the 1991 Grand National at Aintree during that time. He started out at Paul Barber’s Manor Farm with eight horses.

Having strongly challenged Martin Pipe for the jump trainers’ championship over a number of years, most notably when pushing his great rival right to the last day of the 2004/05 campaign, Nicholls claimed his first title the following season, being responsible for 148 winners and gaining over £2.4 million in prize money.

He retained the title the next season with 124 successes and nearly £2,950,000 in prize money. The hugely talented Kauto Star was the stable’s flag‑bearer, with victories in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree, the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park, Sandown’s Tingle Creek Chase, the King George VI Chase at Kempton, Newbury’s AON Chase and the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup. Kauto Star thus became the first horse to land the Betfair Million, the huge bonus put by the leading betting exchange for success in the Betfair Chase, King George VI Chase and totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.

In the 2007/08 season, Kauto Star was runner-up in the Gold Cup but Nicholls also trained his conqueror, the mighty Denman, and ended up champion trainer again with 151 winners and over £3.6 million in prize money.

In the 2008/09 season, Nicholls was champion again with his best tally yet of 155 winners and just under £3.5million in prize money. That season, Kauto Star landed a third King George VI Chase and became the first horse to reclaim the Gold Cup when defeating Denman by 13 lengths.

Nicholls pulled off the amazing feat of saddling seven winners and three seconds from his 10 runners on Saturday, 7 November, 1998, and made history when he became the first trainer to saddle six winners on the same card, at Wincanton, his local track, on Saturday, 21 January, 2006.

Another high point in his training career came at the 1999 Cheltenham Festival when he captured the major chase on each of the three days ‑ Flagship Uberalles scored in The Irish Independent Arkle Chase, Call Equiname in the Queen Mother Champion Chase the following day and, best of all, See More Business took the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Nicholls has trained 25 Cheltenham Festival winners in total, and was the most successful trainer at The Festival in 1999, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2009, as well as Kauto Star’s triumph, he saddled Master Minded to a second win in the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase, while Big Buck’s captured the staying hurdlers’ crown when wining the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. Other highlights at The Festival so far include Azertyuiop’s victories in The Irish Independent Arkle Trophy and the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase,

Paul is currently the second most successful current trainer at The Festival behind Nicky Henderson and is sixth on the all-time list. He is the most successful current handler in totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup with four victories and if he were to land the 2010 renewal, he would join the late Tom Dreaper, trainer of the legendary Arkle, as the race’s winning most handler. His feat in 2009 of saddling the winners of the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup had only been achieved once before (by Jim Dreaper in 1975).

His 1,000th British winner came when Noble Action won at Folkestone on November 15, 2004. This season he has saddled Denman to land a second Hennessy Gold Cup under top-weight, while Kauto Star became the first horse to win the King George VI Chase for a fourth consecutive year.

PAUL NICHOLLS’ 25 SUCCESSES AT THE FESTIVAL

totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup

1999 See More Business ridden by Mick Fitzgerald  

2007 Kauto Star ridden by Ruby Walsh

2008 Denman ridden by Sam Thomas  

2009 Kauto Star ridden by Ruby Walsh

Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase

1999 Call Equiname ridden by Mick Fitzgerald 

2004 Azertyuiop ridden by Ruby Walsh

2008 Master Minded ridden by Ruby Walsh 

2009 Master Minded ridden by Ruby Walsh 

Ryanair Chase

2005 Thisthatandtother ridden by Ruby Walsh 

2007 Taranis ridden by Ruby Walsh 

The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase

1999 Flagship Uberalles ridden by Joe Tizzard   

2003 Azertyuiop ridden by Ruby Walsh

RSA Chase

2006 Star De Mohaison ridden by Barry Geraghty 

2007 Denman ridden by Ruby Walsh 

Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle

2004 Sporazene ridden by Ruby Walsh 

2006 Desert Quest ridden by Ruby Walsh  

2009 American Trilogy ridden by Ruby Walsh 

Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup (Handicap Chase)

2004 St Pirran ridden by  Ruby Walsh

2007 Andreas ridden by Robert Thornton

Christie’s Foxhunter Chase

2004 Earthmover ridden by Miss Rilly Goschen 

2005 Sleeping Night ridden by Mr Colman Sweeney  

Spinal Research Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

2006 Noland ridden by Ruby Walsh

JCB Triumph Hurdle

2008 Celestial Halo ridden by Ruby Walsh

Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase

2009 Chapoturgeon ridden by Timmy Murphy

Ladbrokes World Hurdle

2009 Big Buck’s ridden by Ruby Walsh 

 

PAUL NICHOLLS’ ENTRIES AT THE FESTIVAL SO FAR

• Tuesday, 16 March

Spinal Research Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Ghizao, Pepe Simo

Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy

Tataniano, The Nightingale, Woolcombe Folly

Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle

Celestial Halo

 

• Wednesday, 17 March

140th Year of The National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup

Massasoit

Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle

Ghizao, Najaf

RSA Chase

The Nightingale

Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase

Free World, Master Minded, Twist Magic

 

Thursday, 18 March

Ryanair Chase

Chapoturgeon, Gwanako, Herecomesthetruth, Poquelin

Ladbrokes World Hurdle

Big Buck’s

 

Friday, 19 March

JCB Triumph Hurdle

Advisor, Pistolet Noir

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Najaf, River D’Or

totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup

Denman, Kauto Star, My Will, Taranis, Tricky Trickster, What A Friend

 

 

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