Racing News
Wednesday 22nd February 2017

Nicholls Looking forward to The Festival

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.

Paul Nicholls

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."

Saphir Du Rheu
© Racehorse Photos

Saphir Du Rheu
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."

© Racehorse Photos

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 options 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.

© Racehorse Photos

"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.

© Racehorse Photos

"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
© Racehorse Photos

Dodging Bullets
"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)
-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)
-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

Horse Breeding Owner Festival Entries Rating Summary
BRIO CONTI 6 gr g Dom Alco - Cadoulie Wood (Cadoudal) Owner: The Gi Gi Syndicate
Neptune 134 Recorded first win over hurdles at fourth attempt on Jan 27, taking Doncaster maiden hurdle (2m 3.5f) by 9l; 8th in 2m 1f novices' hurdle at The International at Cheltenham on December 9.
CAPITAINE 5 gr g Montmartre - Patte De Velour (Mansonnien) Owner: Martin Broughton & Friends 2
Supreme 145 2 wins from 4 starts over hurdles; second (beaten 5l by Finian's Oscar) in G1 32Red Tolworth Novices' Hurdle (2m) at Sandown Park on Jan 7; stayed on strongly for 3.5l success in G2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial (1m 7.5f) at Ascot on Dec 16; 20l winner at Wincanton in November.
MOVEWITHTHETIMES 6 ch g Presenting - Dare To Venture (Darazari) Owner: J P McManus
Supreme, Neptune 146 Won two of four starts over hurdles this season; runner-up to fellow novice Ballyandy (btn 0.75l) on handicap debut in valuable Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Feb 11; badly hampered when fifth (btn 3.75l by Moon Racer) in G2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial at The Open in November.
OVERLAND FLYER 6 b g Westerner - Love Train (Sadler's Wells) Owner: Colm Donlon
Bartlett Impressed on Rules debut with 22l success in a 3m maiden hurdle at Taunton  on Jan 11; beaten favourite next time out when fourth (btn 18l) in Albert Bartlett trial (3) at Mussleburgh on Feb 5 when 5/6 favourite; dual point-to-point winner at Larkhill.
ARPEGE D'ALENE 7 gr g Dom Alco - Joliette D'Alene (Garde Royale) Owner: Mr & Mrs Paul Barber, Ged Mason, Sir Alex Ferguson
National Hunt 145 Runner-up (btn 0.75l by Mall Dini) in last year's Pertemps Final at The Festival; off the mark over fences in 3m 1f novices' chase at Aintree in November; placed over fences at Cheltenham on next two starts, latterly finishing third (btn 1.75l) in 3m 2.5f handicap chase on New Year's Day. Fourth of five in G2 3m novices' chase at Ascot on February 18 when 10/11 favourite.
AS DE MEE 7 b/br g Kapgarde - Koeur De Mee (Video Rock) Owner: The Stewart Family & Judi Dench
RSA 145 Second-season novice who was fifth (btn 17.5l) in last season's JLT Novices' Chase at The Festival; started this season with 8l win over subsequent G1 victor Royal Vacation in beginners' chase (2m 3f) at Fontwell in October; relished Grand National fences when winning Grand Sefton Handicap Chase (2m 5f) by 5l in December; PU on latest start in Cheltenham handicap (2m 5f) on Jan 1.
AUX PTITS SOINS 7 gr g Saint Des Saints - Reflexion Faite (Turgeon) Owner: John Hales
RSA, JLT 142 Won Coral Cup first time out for current connections at The Festival in 2015; only start last season saw him finish 5th to Thistlecrack in Stayers' Hurdle at The Festival; successful on second start over fences in novices' chase (2m 7.5f) at Kelso on Dec 4; trailed home last of four in similar contest at Doncaster on Jan 27. Switched back to hurdles, not jump well but stayed on to be 2nd to stable companion Zarkandar in Haydock G2 hurdle over 2m 7f on February 18.
BOA ISLAND 7 b g Trans Island - Eskimo Kiss (Distinctly North) Owner: Patricia Thompson
National Hunt 125 Won two of six starts over fences this season; well-beaten on last two starts in handicap company at Taunton (2m 7f) and Newbury (2m 7.5f).
CLAN DES OBEAUX 5 b/br g Kapgarde - Nausicaa Des Obeaux (April Night) Owner:  Ged Mason, Sir Alex Ferguson, Mr & Mrs Paul Barber
JLT 150 Sixth (btn 15l by Ivanovic Gorbatov) in last year's JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival; not extended to win G2 novices' chase (2m 4f) by 10l at Newbury in November; made costly mistake when second to Whisper in G2 Dipper Novices' Chase (2m 5f) at Cheltenham on Jan 1; jumped poorly when last of five in G1 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase (2m 4f) at Sandown Park on Feb 4.
FRODON 5 b g Nickname - Miss Country (Country Reel) Owner: P J Vogt & Ian Fogg
JLT 153 Won first three starts over fences and bounced back from disappointing tenth in BetVictor Gold Cup (2m 5f) at Cheltenham in November to win the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at The International in December; fell in G1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase (3m) at Kempton Park on Dec 26; victorious by 9l in a novices' chase (2m 4f) at Musselburgh on Feb 5.
IBIS DU RHEU 6 b g Blue Bresil - Dona Du Rheu (Dom Pasquini) Owner: John Hales
National Hunt, JLT, RSA 146 Battling winner of last year's Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at The Festival; third (btn 14l by Thislecrack) on chasing debut in G2 novices' chase (2m 7.5f) at Newbury on Nov 26; second and third respectively on next two starts in novices' handicaps at Chepstow (2m 7.5l) and Cheltenham (2m 5f) on January 28.
LE PREZIEN 6 br g Blue Bresil - Abu Dhabi (Saint Cyrien) Owner: J P McManus
Arkle, JLT 146 G2-winning novice hurdler who was second to Yorkhill in G1 contest (2m 4f) at Aintree last spring; won two of four starts over fences this term, including 4l victory over Hammersly Lake in G2 Racing Post Arkle Trial (2m) at Cheltenham in November; third (btn 6.25l by Top Notch) on latest start in G1 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown Park on Feb 4.
POLITOLOGUE 6 gr g Poliglote - Scarlet Row (Turgeon) Owner: John Hales
Arkle, JLT 152 Improved for switch to fences this season with three wins from four starts including G2 contest (2m 5f) at Ascot on Dec 16; touched off (btn 1.25l) by Waiting Patiently in G2 event (2m 4f) at Haydock Park on Jan 21; last seen out winning two-runner graduation chase (2m 4.5f) at Kempton Park on Feb 10; wide margin winner of a Listed novices' hurdle (2m 1f) at Exeter last season.
LIFEBOAT MONA 7 b m Kayf Tara - Astar Love (Astarabad) Owner: Axom LV
OLBG 144 Unbeaten in last three starts over hurdles; scored by eight lengths in handicap at Ascot in November before a 3l success in a 2m 4f mares' Listed event at Sandown Park on Jan 7.
OLD GUARD 6 b g Notnowcato - Dolma (Marchand De Sable) Owner: The Brooks, Stewart Families & J Kyle
Stayers 150 Enjoyed his biggest days at Cheltenham in 2015 when capturing the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle and G2 International Hurdle; best effort this season came in the Listed Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle (2m 5f), finishing fourth (btn 9l by Modus) under top-weight; seventh in G2 Cleeve Hurdle on first try at 3m on January 28.
ZARKANDAR 10 b g Azamour - Zarkasha (Kahyasi) Owner: Sullivan Bloodstock Ltd & Chris Giles
Stayers 147 Won the JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival in 2011; also captured the G1 Aintree Hurdle in 2013 and a three-mile G1 hurdle at Auteuil in November, 2014; third in 2015 Stayers' Hurdle; four runs this season after returning from injury, with best effort coming with victory in the G2 Rendlesham Hurdle (2m 7f) at Haydock Park on February 18.
ART MAURESQUE 7 b g Policy Maker - Modeva (Valanour) Owner: Mrs Johnny de la Hey
Ryanair 155 Successful in valuable class two handicaps at Newton Abbot (2m 5f) and Chepstow (2m 3.5l) last year; not run since finishing seventh (btn 16.5l) in BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November.
SAPHIR DU RHEU 8 gr g Al Namix - Dona Du Rheu (Dom Pasquini) Owner: The Stewart Family
Ryanair, Gold Cup 156 Under consideration for Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup following easy 15l victory in the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase (2m 7.5f) at Kelso on Feb 16; second in G3 handicap chase (2m 5f) at Cheltenham on Jan 28; runner-up in 2015 Stayers' Hurdle at The Festival before winning G1 novices' chase by 15l at Aintree the following month.

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