Cheltenham - At The Races

Paul Nicholls

    The Champion Trainer is taking a young team of promising horses to Cheltenham including JLT Novices’ Chase contender Politologue, Fred Winter fancy Dreamcatching plus Pertemps runner El Bandit.
  • Wednesday 22 February 2017
  • Stable Tours

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.

All Horses

Arpege D'alene (FR)

Trainer Says:

He is a bit frustrating but he won’t be finishing last in the four miler. I know he got beat on Saturday but it won’t make any difference to his chance as the other day he missed the last two fences and if he hadn’t he would nearly have won at Ascot. He is better going left-handed and really wants cover and 30 runners and he will go to Cheltenham and then the Scottish Grand National. He is a bit quirky but Cheltenham might bring the best out of him and Will Biddick will ride him.

Video Form
9 Oct 2016:
27 Feb 2016:

Bouvreuil (FR)

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Saddler Maker - Madame Lys (Sheyrann)
  • Trained by: P F Nicholls
  • Last Race: Aintree, 7 Apr 2017 16:05
  • Result: 10/29, mid-division, hampered 3rd (chair), chased leaders 15th, ridden and one pace before last, weakened flat
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

He hasn't been the easiest horse to train and if he hadn't had a few little niggles he'd have run by now. I would like to have run him. Someone said to me, 'Ah, you've kept him off on purpose, not to get any more weight.' We did last year, but he's had a few niggles. But he's well capable of running well in the Stable Plate Handicap Chase if we get him there in top form. He'll go on any ground and He had a wind op in the summer but he's just not the easiest horse in the world to train but he goes well fresh.

Video Form
30 Jan 2016:
8 Jan 2016:

Capitaine (FR)

Trainer Says:

He runs in the Dovecote on Saturday and he, like Movewiththetimes, is a proper horse. He is in the Supreme and we will wait and see how he get on at the weekend.

Video Form
10 May 2017:

Coillte Lass (IRE)

Trainer Says:

She is going to run in the Mares Novices’ Hurdle. She has done very well and won three novice hurdles on the bounce and a listed race at Taunton over Christmas over two miles. The last day with a 7lb penalty she was only beaten seven lengths by Vroum Vroum Mag at Doncaster. She is now back in the novice grade and you can’t really do any more than she has done.

Video Form
12 Oct 2017:
28 Jan 2017:
6 Oct 2016:

Diego Du Charmil (FR)

Trainer Says:

He won last season’s Fred Winter off a similar mark to Dream Catcher who runs in the race for us this season. He won first time out and won the four-year-old hurdle at Chepstow then I ran him a bit quick at Ascot then it was too soft when I took him back to Ascot again. I put him away and he came back at Musselburgh two weeks ago on fast ground and won very nicely but went up to a mark of 150 which isn’t the easiest mark. He has one entry in the County Hurdle and we will look and see what is in that race and what the ground is like. The other race we have in mind is the Scottish Champion Hurdle but we are quite keen to go to Cheltenham so we will have a look nearer the time.

Video Form
13 Oct 2017:
22 Sep 2017:
8 Oct 2016:

Dodging Bullets

Trainer Says:

He won the Queen Mother Champion Chase two years ago but has struggled since and is not as good as he was. He ran the other day at Newbury and has dropped down to a mark of 151. He is going to run in the Grand Annual which is a race which will suit him quite nicely. He has come out of Newbury really well and the Grand Annual could be the ideal race for him - he won’t be running against the type of horses he has come up against lately and he could end up with top weight - I am not saying he is going to win it but he could well run a tidy race.

Dreamcatching (FR)

  • 4-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Al Namix - New Zealand (Smadoun)
  • Trained by: P F Nicholls
  • Last Race: Wincanton, 23 Apr 2017 13:50
  • Result: Won/2, raced keenly, tracked leader, closed 3 out, pushed along between last 2, upsides last, stayed on under pressure to lead close home
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

He entered the equation for Cheltenham after winning at Wincanton on Saturday and he has one entry which is the Fred Winter. He has a mark of 131 and we have won it for the last two years with a horse rated 133 and a horse rated 131 so he is about the right mark. He won a bumper in France last Summer and was third on his hurdling debut at Auteuil and we fancied him on his debut for us at Kempton over Christmas and he was too free and wasn’t right. He hadn’t really acclimatised and it was a much better performance at Wincanton where he bolted in. He is a progressive young horse and we have had the 1-2 in the Fred Winter for the past two years.

El Bandit (IRE)

Trainer Says:

He has several entries but he will run in the Pertemps Final. He has been a real progressive horse and won four on the trot in the Autumn including the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow. I ran him a bit quick after his win at Cheltenham in October and he ended his winning sequence but we freshened him up and ran him at Musselburgh the other day and he won the Qualifier over three miles and two. He surprised us a little as we didn’t think he was really ready and he went up 4lb for that which isn’t too bad. He has to progress again but he is the sought to run really well. He will go novice chasing next season and could be a real exciting chaser next year.

Video Form
9 Oct 2016:
1 Jun 2016:

Le Prezien (FR)

Trainer Says:

He is in everything - the Arkle, the Grand Annual and the two mile five handicap chase as well. If Altior wasn’t in the Arkle I would be very keen to run him there but the race has a bit of a one-sided look with him in it. He has won over two miles at Cheltenham and he travels really well. I think two miles suits him well where they go a good gallop and he could end up going for the Grand Annual but we will make a decision nearer the time. He hasn’t quite come in his coat but he should have in two or three weeks’ time and he has won twice already for us this season. I don’t think he ran his race at Sandown the other day and he didn’t jump as well as he can. I think he will run better in the Spring and he’s a good chaser.

Video Form
28 Apr 2017:
28 Oct 2016:
8 Jan 2016:

Lifeboat Mona

Trainer Says:

She is the other mare I will be definitely run at Cheltenham and she will run in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle on the first day. She has been really good this year and has only ever been beaten once over hurdles and will run on the first day.

Video Form
30 Dec 2015:

Movewiththetimes (IRE)

Trainer Says:

He is a really smart horse and we really like him. He is going to be a proper chaser next season. He has done really well this season and ran really well the other day in the Betfair Hurdle on only his fourth race over hurdles when runner-up to Ballyandy. He ran very green from the back of the last but he and Ballyandy ran very well. He has several entries at Cheltenham and he went up 10lb for the other day so we will have to look and see what race is best for him. He ran well behind Moon Racer and Ballyandy at Cheltenham in November in a muddling race and wasn’t beaten far. If we went the Supreme route he could run a tidy race on slightly faster ground but I will talk to the team and go from there.

Video Form
19 Oct 2016:

Old Guard

Trainer Says:

He had a good time at Cheltenham last year and likes it there. He ran over fences at Newton Abbot and almost fell at the first and then won at Exeter but jumped badly so we abandoned that. He ran well under top weight in the Lanzarote the other day and stayed on strongly over two miles five and we thought the Coral Cup at Cheltenham would be the ideal race to run him in – hopefully not under top weight. He is in the Stayers' Hurdle as well and unless Andy (Stewart) and Jeremy Kyle persuade me otherwise he will run in the Coral Cup.

Video Form
14 Oct 2017:
7 Oct 2016:
27 Dec 2014:

Pacha Du Polder (FR)

Trainer Says:

He definitely runs in the Foxhunter and Bryony Frost rides him. He ran very well last year and won very nicely the other day at Bangor. Granted decent ground, he will run well again. Whereas last year I was running him in point-to-points, and had to run him three times for Victoria to ride him - and he still ran really well - he's going to be fresh this year. I think he does want a trip now - we ran him in a couple of handicaps over the summer and he was flat out. All he did was stay. It's good to give people like Bryony an opportunity.

Video Form
17 Aug 2016:
26 Jun 2016:
20 May 2016:
19 Feb 2016:
29 May 2015:

Politologue (FR)

  • 6-y-o; gelding
  • Breeding: Poliglote - Scarlet Row (Turgeon)
  • Trained by: P F Nicholls
  • Last Race: Aintree, 8 Apr 2017 15:00
  • Result: F/5, tracked leader, led 7th, ridden and pressed after 2 out, a narrow lead when stumbled and fell on landing side of last
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

He holds one of our leading chances and he runs in the JLT. He is a real progressive chaser and has won three out of four this year. He just had a canter round Kempton last week which was an ideal school for him and had a hard enough race around Haydock the time before and I thought that was a real smart run. He is rated 152 and that is a real smart mark for a novice over fences. He ran a little bit free at Haydock and got a little bit buzzy in the prelims and that is the opposite to what he is like at home. We put a hood on him at Kempton and he was really relaxed and Sam was really pleased with him. He is a real grand jumper and the ground doesn’t bother him and Cheltenham has been his aim all season. He is going to be a real nice horse next year too.

Romain De Senam (FR)

Trainer Says:

He is an interesting horse and he has two entries - one in the Grand Annual and one the Novices’ Handicap Chase. He was beaten a short head in the Fred Winter last season and he is almost certain to go for the novices’ handicap chase over two and a half. He wants two and a half miles over fences and he won over two miles at Leicester and I ran him at Doncaster five days later but it was too quick and the track was too sharp for him. He ran nicely enough at Doncaster but he we were always going to run him in the two and a half mile novices’ at Cheltenham. He will get in the race, jumps really well and must have a good chance. He has been stuck in small field novices and won a match at Leicester but wants a real good pace like he had in the Fred Winter. Arguably he is well handicapped.

Video Form
15 Oct 2017:
28 Jan 2017:
28 Nov 2016:

Saphir Du Rheu (FR)

Trainer Says:

He’s been a frustrating horse but he came good at Kelso last week in a conditions chase and absolutely bolted up which he should have done. He jumped really well and is just starting to get his act together a little bit. When he won the Grade 1 at Aintree we thought he was going to be a superstar over fences but he lost his way a little bit jumping. His last two runs have been good and he jumped very well at Cheltenham over a trip too sharp and then stayed on strongly then won the other day. He is a little bit in no man’s land as he has a high mark now and I have entered him in the Ultima Handicap Chase and the Gold Cup and he is almost certain to run in the Gold Cup. Andy (Stewart) is keen to run him in the Gold Cup so I suspect he will run in that race. On known form he isn’t going to trouble the main ones but he could run a real tidy race and finish fifth or sixth. He has plenty of ability and I know we haven’t seen the best of him yet.

Wonderful Charm (FR)

  • 9-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Poliglote - Victoria Royale (Garde Royale)
  • Trained by: P F Nicholls
  • Last Race: Stratford, 9 Jun 2017 19:50
  • Result: 3/10, towards rear, not fluent 13th, hit next and pushed along, modest 8th 2 out, stayed on before last, went 3rd flat, finished well
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

It was bordering on soft when he won on Saturday and his wind is not great and if it was soft he wouldn’t run in the Foxhunters. He is ground dependent and normally it would be good ground but if it was soft he would wait and go to Aintree.

Video Form
9 Jun 2017:
1 Nov 2014:

Zarkandar (IRE)

Trainer Says:

He came back to form and won the Rendlesham Hurdle on Saturday. He has been an amazing horse and won the Triumph Hurdle six years ago. He has been a great horse and he had a leg 18 months ago after he won in France and missed all last season. He would have won at Aintree if he hadn’t unseated Sean at the last in November and then ran a bit flat. I re-cauterised his palate before he ran the other day and sometimes these older horses need the palate fine-tuned again and it was ‘hey bingo’. He was right back to his best and it wasn’t the greatest race but he travelled great, won well and Harry said he had tons left in the tank. He will run in the Stayers' Hurdle if all is ok. Two years ago he was in third when making a horrific mistake at the second last which cost him any chance of winning. He is back in form and is looks an open-ish looking race.

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