The Jumps season is slowly starting to pick up a notch now we have reached October and one man who looks set for another successful season is Paul Nicholls who has an array of talent in his yard for the campaign ahead.
The Ditcheat handler will be seeking a twelfth victory in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, and his dual winner of the race, Clan Des Obeaux, heads the betting for the Grade One feature at Kempton.
2019 RSA Chase winner Topofthegame is back in training having missed the whole of last season due to injury, and Laurina is set to have her first start for Nicholls this season having joined him from Willie Mullins' yard.
Nicholls provided the latest update on his stable stars in Betfair’s Racing Only Bettor Podcast and here's what he had to say:
Watch how Clan Des Obeaux landed his second King George
I think he's the best he's ever looked. He's still only eight years old. He seems to have been around forever, but he's eight and is probably at the peak of his life.
Our target is the Betfair Chase at Haydock at the end of November, so we don't want to get him ready too quick, but I'm very, very happy with the way he looks and the way he's going. He's not going to go back to Cheltenham, whatever happens.
He would have run in the spring if we'd have carried on and gone to Sandown and the ground was okay. He'd recovered and he was actually winded that day (when he fell in the Ascot Chase). He had no physical injury, he was just winded. I was fairly confident when I got to him, in that deep old ground, he'd given everything, and as soon as we got some oxygen into him, the vets were brilliant, and he was absolutely fine and he didn't take long to get over it, funnily enough.
I had him cantering away and he was ready to run again, as I said, in April but obviously, we couldn't. He looks great now. He's had a great summer and he's in as good a shape as he was this time last year. He's a little bit more laidback now in his work and everything he does than he ever used to be, but he looks great and he's scheduled at the moment to go to Down Royal because I'd love to see if he gets three miles there.
She looks fantastic and she's done a lot of jumping over hurdles and fences. I understand she bled on the two occasions that she ran ordinarily. Obviously, her first run over fences was very, very good and the form was good, but she went straight in when she got in and had a breathing operation.
I'm hoping that was the cause of her bleeding which often is the case, and if it works like it did with a horse like Tidal Bay, that'd be a right result. However, she's a lovely filly and she's took a while to settle into things, but she's working nicely. She's very straightforward and looks great.
I'll probably start her off over hurdles. I haven't discussed it fully with Jared (O’Sullivan, owner) but I think we might start her in that two-and-a-half-mile hurdle at Ascot towards the end of November, then make a plan from there.
Physically, he's done very well. He's a big, strong horse now and he’s a half-brother to Waiting Patiently, so he's from a good family and was a good bumper horse for us. He was very slow last year over hurdles, to get his act together, and he was very slow at home schooling. He had a fall at home schooling and his first run at Chepstow, the hurdle fell down in front of him and he lost his bottle a little bit.
Then he went to Ascot on very heavy ground. He wasn't right and underperformed, but because of that, he actually handicapped himself a little bit and I just thought, we're not going to win at Cheltenham with him this year, it's a bit too much, why not try and win the EBF Final? So we went to Market Rasen and he won there quite nicely plus jumped brilliantly.
He got a really good mark and went to Kempton and I honestly couldn't see him being beat that day. It all fell into place for him. He was going to be at Sandown the week before where the ground was testing and it was abandoned. Going to Kempton the Saturday after Cheltenham suited him well and he loved it around there and he put the race to bed very, very quickly and easily. He's a proper horse, he is.
Last year, we didn't run him in the Champion Hurdle. We never thought he's been a champion hurdler or a speedy horse. He's a really staying, chasing type of horse.
He was bought as a chaser, so it was just about binding time now actually until he went chasing, and of course, we got lucky and won the Betfair Hurdle, which was brilliant. He's all ready to go in fencing and that's where his future will lie, I'm sure.
He obviously won the RSA, won that nicely, the form was great, and it was a setback last year not being able to run him, but sometimes a big horse like him, a year off never does them any harm. He's had time to mature and he looks fantastic at the moment.
I'm very happy with his prep and just need to keep him sound and well and head off to Newbury. That's the plan, anyway. There's not really anything suitable to run him in beforehand where the ground would be safe as a prep run for that, so we have to try and 'do a Denman' and get him there in the best of shape, fit enough to go and do himself justice.
Paul Nicholls has also nominated some horses in his yard who it may pay to keep onside this season:
He won two novice hurdles at the end of last season. The plan is to run him in a Listed novice hurdle at Kempton next weekend, then go to Cheltenham for the Paddy Power meeting. He took a while to acclimatise last season like a lot of the French horses do.
The plan is to go for the Charlie Hall and he is in good shape. We want to campaign him a bit more over three miles this season, as that is what he definitely wants. He just wasn’t quite good enough last season and has probably lost a gear as well. He has won a Cotswold Chase over three-one and I think three miles is his trip now.
He is a nice horse and the plan is to go to the Haldon Gold Cup. He ran very well at the Cheltenham Festival in the Grand Annual and he did nothing but progress last season. I could see him running in a Tingle Creek if he progresses.
He has had the best part of 18 months off since he won at Punchestown. We are on top of everything at the moment and if we keep him sound he will be a very nice novice chaser as he has schooled well. He could go to Fakenham for a three-mile novice chase.
I’m told he is better right-handed and his form suggests that, but he did run well in the Gold Cup where he looked a non-stayer. I think we will start him off in the Christy 1965 Chase that we won last year with Cyrname. To me he is a Ryanair horse.
He ran well at Cheltenham having only won at Catterick the time before. I will give him a run over hurdles somewhere then he will have an entry in all the good two-and-a-half-mile handicap chases, including the Paddy Power, which might be a nice race for him.
We will start him off at Wincanton in the Elite Hurdle and go from there. He has been gelded during the summer. He was very good at Kempton in the Adonis, but he got lost a little bit round Cheltenham in the Triumph and he may have been over the top. He will improve this season as we have started from scratch with him.
Paul Nicholls on the Trainers' Title:
You never chase the championship, you can't do that. We just do what we normally do. Interestingly, this time last year going into Chepstow, I think we'd had five winners and we were 23rd in the championship. We'd had a slow start, this year we’ve already had 16 winners and well up the table, so we've had a good base to start this year.
Things are a little bit different because of what's happened in no racing in June and July, but we're in a good place to start off next week at Chepstow. It's where we always kick off and then we're going to have plenty of runners to run after that.
We've got a big team, a lot of nice horses, but you can't be thinking of Trainers' Championship at this time of year. You've just got to get a good base and let's see what happens. It's really after Cheltenham it gets really serious and of course, yes, we'd love to win the championship, of course we would, but so would Nicky and so would Dan Skelton and other people. It's just the way everybody is, but you've just got to train the horses really for the right races, doing the right thing, and everything else follows.
Is Dan Skelton a contender for the trainers' championship this season?
I think he hasn't that many runners in the summer. He's hoping to have a yard full of horses to run through the winter. I think you'll see he'll have a lot more better horses running better races.
Ultimately, at some stage, he's definitely going to be a real threat along with Olly Murphy. He's got a big string of horses, huge number of horses. Fergal O’Brien is doing very well. There's some very good trainers out there. It will always make things very competitive and very interesting.We've teamed up with the National Hunt experts at Timeform to bring you a FREE copy of their latest book - 50 Jumps Horses to Follow throughout the 2020/21 season. Simply join and deposit with one of our 10 betting partners below and we'll send you a FREE copy. Click here for more details.
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