Paul Nicholls Cheltenham Team
The fantastic Cheltenham Festival exploits of Paul Nicholls have been somewhat overshadowed in recent seasons by the amazing achievements of Willie Mullins, but Nicholls has still made his mark with 3 winners in both 2015 and 2016.
Those winners may not have been as high-profile as those of past eras that included Kauto Star, Denman and Master Minded, but Nicholls now has a total of 40 Cheltenham Festival winners.
However, it’s worth noting the shift in the type of races Nicholls has been enjoying his recent success in. He may have won four Gold Cups, five Champion Chases, and four Stayers’ Hurdles, but four of his last 6 Cheltenham Festival winners have come in Handicap Hurdles, winning the Fred Winter in both of the last two years.
Therefore, we thought it was a good time to take a look at the horses that are likely to give Nicholls his best chances of success at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.
Heads to the National Hunt Chase, and very much following in the footsteps of the stable’s 2016 Scottish Grand National winner Vicente. Nicholls thinks he’ll come into his own over 4-miles in a big-field, and he’s likely to head to the Scottish Grand National after Cheltenham.
Sadly, the Nicholls stable isn’t really a gambling stable, so he’s been happy to explain why this one should be thereabouts in the Fred Winter – and the bookies have already made him second favourite. Like many of Nicholls’ better horses, he’s come from France, and after just two runs he’s on a mark 2lb lower than Nicholls’ last two winners of the Fred Winter.
He heads for the Pertemps Final, and looks certain to appreciate better ground and an end-to-end gallop. A prolific winner this season, a 4lb rise for winning his last race was more than fair, and he could still have plenty of improvement to come.
Would be a possible Arkle runner in an average year but, with Altior looking a certainty there, Nicholls is leaning towards the Grand Annual for this course and distance winner.
Has every right to chance his arm in the Supreme Novice after an eye-catching performance when second in the Betfair Hurdle, and that race may have made a man of him after he had won his previous races easily. However, he might prefer the end-to-end gallop of the County Hurdle, so hold your bets until his target is announced.
He heads to the JLT, and Nicholls is convinced his accurate jumping will have his opponents in trouble on decent ground, including the high-class Yorkhill.
Romain De Senam
One of Nicholl’s better chances of success, and his likely target is the 2½-mile novices handicap chase. He was second in the Fred Winter last season, and looks sure to improve for being back at Cheltenham with a fast pace in a big field.