Paul Nicholls is the leading National Hunt trainer of his generation in the United Kingdom, with more than 2000 race winners during his successful career.
Born in 1962, Nicholls grew up in Olveston, Bristol and left school at the age of 16. His interest in horses led to him becoming conditional jockey for Josh Gifford in 1982, which began his career in the world of horse racing.
He went on to ride as stable jockey for David Barons and after that he would have his most success in the saddle. He rode the winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Broadheath in 1986, then followed that up the next year on Playschool. On the second of those horses, he also won the 1987 Welsh Grand National and the 1988 Irish Hennessy.
His career as a jockey was cut short due to a broken leg, suffered when he was kicked by a horse. He called time after a seven-year career in which he rode 133 winners and moved on to a two-year training apprenticeship under Barons.
In 1991 he answered an advert in the Sporting Life, took out his trainer’s licence and rented stables from a dairy farmer at Manor Farm in Ditcheat, Somerset. Despite there being room for 28 horses, Nicholls could only fill eight at the beginning, but that number would soon grow.
His first winner as a trainer was a horse named Olveston, which was owned by his father and named after the village in which he grew up. He had his first Grade One winner in 1993 with See More Indians winning at Kempton and his first Listed winner was Montifault at Wincanton during the 2001/02 season.
After eight years as a trainer, Nicholls burst into the elite of national hunt racing. In 1999, he trained the winners of three of the most prestigious steeplechase races in the sport at the Cheltenham Festival, winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase, The Arkle Challenge Trophy and The Gold Cup.
Despite this, he had to wait a long time before being crowned Champion Trainer. After seven seasons as runner-up behind long-time rival Martin Pipe, he won his first title at the end of the 2005/06 season. That would be the first of nine Champion Trainer titles, with him winning every year but one up until the 2014/15 season.
His successes grew further when he appointed Ruby Walsh as his stable jockey, with the pairing having winners in some of the biggest races on the calendar. He had the most successful point of his training career during the Cheltenham Festival in 2008, when he trained the first three horses in the Gold Cup. Denman won the race, with Kauto Star in second and Neptune Collonges in third. That season, 2007/08, he trained 155 winners and won a record £4 million in prize money.
During his career he has reached several milestones and broken many records. His 50th Grade One winner came in December 2008 with Master Minded at Sandown and three years later, in 2011, he became the fastest national hunt trainer in history to train 2000 winners. He has won pretty much all of the top races in the sport and finally picked up his first and only Grand National to date in 2012, when Daryl Jacob rode 33/1 shot Neptune Collonges to success.
Some of the greatest jumps horses in the history of racing have been trained by Nicholls, with the most successful probably being Kauto Star. That horse was a five-time King George VI winner during his time on the course and became the first horse to win over £2 million in prize money.
He is an outspoken, honest and well-respected trainer that gives his opinion to the racing public in a column for Betfair. He is also a keen Manchester United supporter and trains several horses for their former manager Alex Ferguson.
This year marks 25 years for Nicholls as a trainer but he is still as determined as ever to train winners. Still at Manor Farm Stables, he now has room for 126 horses and owners everywhere come to him in the hope he can train them a big winner. Sam Twiston-Davies is now his stable jockey, backed up by Nick Scholfield and Sean Bowen, as the team look to produce more winners.
Nicholls has already trained listed winners this season, 2015/16, as he looks to win the Champion Trainer title yet again. Regardless of whether he wins that or not though, he has had a successful past and the future is looking bright for the son of a policeman from Bristol.