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Nicholls looking forward to The Festival

Press Release 21st February 2017 Cheltenham

Paul Nicholls today talked about his big team for The Festival at a media stable visit organised by Cheltenham Racecourse to Manor Farm Stables, Ditcheat, Somerset.
While he may be lacking ammunition in the five main championship races over the four days, Tuesday, March 14 to Friday, March 17, the 10-time champion Jump trainer in Britain spoke encouragingly about many of his charges.
He is leading the way again in the trainers' championship and is keen to hang on to the advantage he has built up.
The news of Thistlecrack's defection from the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup broke as Nicholls was finishing off his eighth of nine one-to-one interviews with broadcast media.
He sympathised with the connections of Thistlecrack, who is trained by Colin Tizzard: "It is sad for Colin and the owners - a blow to everyone. I am sure Thistlecrack will be back.
"It is a nightmare, a lots of things can happen to horses between now and The Festival. These horses are athletes and there are always going to be training problems. You get niggles and injuries when you are pressing buttons. It is in the lap of the gods - you are always on edge."
The one Nicholls contender for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, a race he has won four times, is eight-year-old Saphir Du Rheu who enjoyed an easy victory in the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase at Kelso earlier this month.
The trainer said: "He is back on track and won nicely at Kelso the other day and before that ran really well at Cheltenham, when second (in the Hugo's Restaurant Barbados Trophy Handicap Chase (2m 5f) under a big weight on January 28) over an inadequate trip.
"He fell in the Hennessy when I thought he had a big chance and that might have just woken him up. He had a fairly bad fall and everything galloped over him.
"Since that day, he has jumped very, very well. If he can jump and get his act together, he is a good horse. I am not saying he is going to win a Gold Cup.
"Andy (Stewart), his owner, had a decent chaser called My Will a few years ago, probably not as good as Saphir Du Rheu, and he ended up finishing fourth in the Gold Cup.
"You never know, Saphir Du Rheu could pick up some crumbs in the Gold Cup and get placed now. He deserves to be in the race's line-up.
"We thought he would be a superstar when he won a Grade One at Aintree (in April, 2015) but he lost his way a little bit. He has plenty of ability and we have not seen the best of him yet."
Nicholls highlighted others such as Movewiththetimes, the recent second in the valuable Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
He explained: "Movewithetimes is a progressive horse and ran a really good race in the Betfair Hurdle. There are lots of option for him at The Festival and we don't know which race he will be going for at the moment.
"We have always thought he was a very classy horse and I am looking forward to him jumping fences in the future. He still lacks a bit of experience - running a bit green from the last at Newbury which was only his fourth run.
"He could go for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (the opening race at The Festival) and I don't think there is a lot of difference between him and my previous winners of the race, Noland (2006) and Al Ferof (2011). They were rated about the same, 146, and he compares favourably with them.
"Politologue is very well and he goes for the JLT Novices' Chase after a good preparation. He won well at Kempton the other day and has a leading chance. We always thought he would make into a nice chaser and he did really well from run to run. He jumps very nicely and is rated 152 which is a real smart mark for a novice over fences and Cheltenham has been the aim all season.
"I had not thought of entering Dreamcatching at The Festival before he won on Saturday but he is now in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Handicap Hurdle and is not unlike the horses we have won the race with for the last two years, Diego Du Charmil (2016) and Qualando (2015). He has a progressive profile.
"I thought he would go well at Kempton at Christmas - he had been third on his only start at Auteuil. We rode him completely wrong at Kempton, thinking he was a stayer and he ran free and did not get home. Though, also I am convinced he wasn't right that day. He was a different horse at Wincanton on Saturday, bolting in, and could not have been more impressive.
"Zarkandar has done nothing but improve since he had a wind operation at Christmas. I say wind op - we cauterized his palate - just tweaked it and he seems to be fine after his Haydock Park win on Saturday. The Stayers' Hurdle will be different type of race but he is definitely in the mix.
"Dodging Bullets won the Champion Chase two years ago but has struggled since and is not as good as he was. He has dropped down to a mark of 151 and he is going to run in the Grand Annual - the race will suit him quite nicely - there is no point running him in Grade Ones at the moment and we want to try him in a handicap. He has come out the Newbury race very well.
"El Bandit has several entries but is being aimed at the Pertemps Network Final and he won four or five on the trot in the autumn. He won the qualifier at Edinburgh (Musselburgh) the other day, surprising us as we did not think he was really ready. He went up 4lb for that and he has to go forward again, but he is a very progressive horse.
"Coillte Lass has also been really progressive - she won her first three starts and then was third to Vroom Vroom Mag at level weights at Doncaster. It is great for Ditcheat Thoroughbreds to have a runner with a live chance at The Festival in their first year of operation. She is one of the best novice mares and will go for the Trull Houses Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle."
Paul Nicholls, Tuesday, February 21, 2017 Ditcheat, Somerset
Synopsis -10-time champion Jump trainer (2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16) became the first British handler to accrue more than £4 million of prize money in a season in 2007/08. He is leading trainer so far this season, with 123+ wins & £1,750,000+.
He saddled his 2,000th winner at Down Royal on November 5, 2011, 20 years after taking his licence, making him the fastest Jump trainer to reach the landmark figure and has now gone beyond the 2,725-winner mark.
He has sent out 40 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, the third-highest total ever, including four victories in the feature Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, five in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, two in the Ryanair Chase and four in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle. He has gained 112 Grade One successes. Neptune Collonges provided him with a first Randox Health Grand National victory in 2012.
Born - Lydney, Glos, April 17, 1962
Background - The son of a policemen, he began his racing career as a Jump jockey and partnered 130 winners between 1980 and 1989, with his biggest successes coming in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury on Broadheath (1986) and Playschool (1987), who also won the Irish Gold Cup with Paul up in 1988.
Having struggled to keep his weight down, he retired from riding in 1989 and assisted Devon handler David Barons, trainer of not only Broadheath and Playschool but also Seagram, who won the 1991 Grand National at Aintree during Nicholls' time at the stable.
Nicholls took out his own licence to train at Manor Farm Stables in Ditcheat on November 1, 1991, with just eight horses and has come a long way since. Manor Farm Stables, which has been expanded, is the main yard, with Highbridge the second yard just outside the village.
First winner as a trainer - Olveston, Hereford, December 20, 1991
1999 -3 Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase(Flagship Uberalles), Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Call Equiname), Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup (See More Business)
2000 - No winners
2001 - No winners  
2002 - No winners
2003 -1 Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase(Azerytuiop)
2004 -4 St James's Place Foxhunter Chase (Earthmover), Johnny Henderson Grand Annual (St Pirran), Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Azertyuiop), Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Sporazene)
2005 -2 St James's Place Foxhunter Chase (Sleeping Night), Ryanair Chase (Thisthatandtother)
2006 -3 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Noland), RSA Chase (Star De Mohaison), Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Desert Quest)
2007 -4 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual (Andreas), RSA Chase (Denman), Ryanair Chase (Taranis), Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup (Kauto Star)
2008 -3 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Master Minded), JCB Triumph Hurdle (Celestial Halo), Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup (Denman)
2009 -5 Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase (Chapoturgeon), Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Master Minded), Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle (Big Buck's), Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (American Trilogy), Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup (Kauto Star)
2010 -2 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Sanctuaire), Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle (Big Buck's)
2011 -3 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Al Ferof), Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle (Big Buck's), JCB Triumph Hurdle (Zarkandar)
2012 -2 Stan James Champion Hurdle (Rock On Ruby), Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle (Big Buck's)
2013 -1 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (Salubrious)
2014 -1 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Lac Fontana)
2015 -3Coral Cup (Aux Ptits Soins), Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Dodging Bullets), Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Qualando)
2016 -3 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Diego Du Charmil, Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (Ibis Du Rheu), Johnny Henderson Grand Annual (Solar Impulse)
Winner of The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award at The Festival: - 1999, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009
Paul Nicholls' current entries for The Festival
1.30pm £125,000 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m ½f
Capitaine, Movewiththetimes
2.10pm £175,000 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m
Le Prezien
2.50pm £105,000 Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f
Card Du Berlais
Ibis Du Rheu
Irish Saint
Saphir Du Rheu
Southfield Theatre
3.30pm £400,000 Stan James Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m ½f
No entries
4.10pm £110,000 OLBG Mares' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f
Lifeboat Mona
4.50pm £120,000 J T McNamara National Hunt Chase (Novices) (Amateurs) (Grade 2) 4m
Arpege D'Alene, Ibis Du Rheu
5.30pm £70,000 Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase (0-140) (Listed) 2m 4½f
Clic Work
Romain De Senam
1.30pm £125,000 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 5f
2.10pm £175,000 RSA Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 3m ½f
As De Mee, Ibis Du Rheu
2.50pm £95,000 Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle) (Grade 3) 2m 5f
Adrien Du Pont
El Bandit
Lac Fontana
Old Guard
Tommy Silver
3.30pm £350,000 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) 2m
No entries
4.10pm £65,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase 3m 6f
Entries close February 28
4.50pm £80,000 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m ½f
Volpone Jelois
5.30pm £75,000 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1) 2m ½f
Entries close February 28
1.30pm £150,000 JLT Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f
Clan Des Obeaux, Ibis Du Rheu, Frodon, Politologue,
2.10pm £95,000 Pertemps Network Final (Handicap Hurdle) (Listed) 3m
Caid Du Berlais
El Bandit
Mr Mix
Rainy City
Red Hanrahan
2.50pm £300,000 Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) 2m 5f
Art Mauresque
3.30pm £300,000 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m
Old Guard, Zarkandar
4.10pm £105,000 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (Handicap Chase) (Grade 3) 2m 5f
Art Mauresque
Caid Du Berlais
Irish Saint
Le Prezien
Ulck Du Lin
Vibrato Valtat
4.50pm £80,000 Trull House Stud Mares Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 1f
Coillte Lass
5.30pm £70,000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase (Amateurs) (0-145) 3m 2f
1.30pm £125,000 JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1f 125,000
Cliffs Of Dover (met setback & will miss The Festival)  
2.10pm £95,000 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 1f
Diego Du Charmil
2.50pm £125,000 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m
Overland Flyer
3.30pm £575,000 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) 3m 2½f
No entries
4.10pm £45,000 St James's Place Foxhunter Chase 3m 2½f
Paha Du Polder
Wonderful Charm
4.50pm £65,000 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (0-145) 2m 4½f
Brio Conti
El Bandit
Lac Fontana
Rainy City
Tommy Silver
5.30pm £105,000 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m ½f
Dodging Bullets
Le Prezien
San Benedeto
Ulck Du Lin
Vibrato Valtat


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