Paul Nicholls may not quite have the strength in his battalions right now that saw him lift the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Kauto Star (2007 & 2009), Denman (2008) and See More Business (1999) but the Champion Trainer still remains one of the major forces at the Cheltenham Festival.
He has racked up several wins in the Championship contests - five Queen Mother Champion Chases, four Stayers’ Hurdles, two Ryainair Chases plus a Champion Hurdle - but races that were missing from his illustrious CV were captured at last year’s Festival.
And the successes of Diego Du Charmil (Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle), Ibis Du Rheu (Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle) plus Solar Impulse (Grand Annual Chase) took the Ditcheat handler to the lofty total of 40 winners for the highlight of the jumps season.
Nicholls is bringing through plenty of young stock that could well be gracing the top table in the next couple of years and has several lively candidates for this time around with Politologue perhaps holding his strongest chance in the JLT Novices’ Chase.
He said: “We've a nice team and some nice chances and I'm looking forward to it - not a lot of pressure in a lot of ways. Politologue is a nice horse who jumps really nicely, but all those races are competitive. We've got some nice horses for the future and it’s a bit easier now that you're not turning out horses like 'Kauto' for another Gold Cup. All those horses were great but there was a lot of pressure as well.
“It's like a football squad. You're not going to have those players every year - you have to rebuild and start again. I've been amazingly lucky to have won the Gold Cup four times - I probably don't deserve to win it again! - but we'll keep trying to find those horses. That's what I enjoy - bringing along the young horses that can possibly be the future stars.”
Paul kindly guided Tony Elves of attheraces.com through his main hopes for the big meeting.