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Press Release 10th May 2023 Haydock Park

Paul Nicholls believes Afadil is capable of giving him an early season boost at Haydock Park on Saturday (13th May) after insisting he is one of the ‘better ones’ he has run in search of a first success in the Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle.

While boasting one of the most impressive CVs around the Ditcheat handler is yet to taste victory in the £100,000 Premier Handicap, which is the feature contest on the sole mixed Flat and Jump card in Britain.

After finishing a respectable eighth in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, the Camelot gelding then found only stablemate Blueking D’Oroux too strong at Ascot before signing off the 2022/23 season with a taking victory at Ayr last month.

And having only been nudged up six pounds for his latest success, Nicholls feels that Afadil can defy his new mark of 128 in Saturday’s two-mile prize. 


Nicholls said: “I’ve never won the Swinton Hurdle but I’ve not had too many runners in the race. We had a nice horse called Act Of Valour who was going well in the race in 2018 before unfortunately coming down while still holding every chance at the second last. 

“Afadil won well at Ayr and we just thought we would give it a go as there was an extra gap compared to normal between that race and this.  

“He has been quite busy and that would be my only reservation but he seems very well at home and he schooled well on Monday. He hit the line strongly at Ayr and a fast run two miles at Haydock Park on Saturday would really suit him. 

“He had one blip up there last season but you can put a line through that effort as it came too quick after his win at Musselburgh and he took another step forward the last day.

“He was very unlucky at Cheltenham. He got left last and Harry (Cobden) rode him for a lot of luck. It never opened for him but he wasn’t beaten far.

“He was then beaten by our 50-1 winner at Ascot but that horse has since run a blinder at Aintree, so the form is good.

“It is a competitive race but I’d like to think if he runs up to form he has got a nice chance of giving us a first win in the race as he is one of the better ones we have run in it.”


May is usually a busy month for the recently crowned 14-time champion Jump trainer, however he expects to be much quieter this time around and throughout the summer months as well.

Nicholls said: “Normally we try to aim to have 20 winners by October 1st but I’d say we will be lucky if we have 10 by then this year. Once it gets to October 1st though and we have a full yard back in, then we will really blitz it. 

“We’ve sold a few and moved a few on and although the summer serves a purpose for some horses there is plenty of work back here to do while the staff all need to take time off as well before it gets busy again.”

Elsewhere on the card trainer David Pipe admits ground conditions will determine whether recent Southwell scorer Thanksforthehelp takes his place in the Pertemps Network Long Distance Hurdle. 

The JP McManus-owned gelding, who finished down the field when sent off favourite for the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Final at the Cheltenham Festival before his latest success, features among 26 entries received for the extended three-mile prize. 


However his Wellington-based handler has warned he will only take his chance providing there is enough cut in the ground. 

Pipe said: “It all depends on the ground as to whether we run Thanksforthehelp. I’ve just got a feeling that it might dry out that bit too much. 

“The race at Cheltenham didn’t pan out for him and he had a lot of ground to make up there.

“We dropped him back to an extended two and a half miles last time at Southwell as it was his last opportunity in a novice hurdle but it showed he can handle a sharp track. 

“If he does run on Saturday, the track and trip should suit him and he should have a good chance as he gets in off a nice weight. He is still only a shell of a horse so there is more to come.”


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