Cheltenham countdown: Paul Nicholls has faith in Wonderful Charm

Mon 26 Feb 2018

By staff

Paul Nicholls rates leading St James's Place Foxhunter Chase contender Wonderful Charm as his best chance of saddling a winner at next month's Cheltenham Festival.

The Ditcheat handler is optimistic the 10-year-old can go one better than he did in the three-and-a-quarter-mile test last year, when he was second to stablemate Pacha Du Polder.

The triple Grade Two winner will enter the race on the back of a victory having claimed a hunters' chase at Musselburgh last time out.

Nicholls said: "We'll probably end up running four in the Foxhunter.

"Unioniste won at Fontwell and will be ridden by Mr (David) Maxwell who owns him. Virak, who will be ridden by Lorcan Williams, Wonderful Charm, who will be ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen as they have bought into the horse now, and Pacha Du Polder, who won it last year and ran at Doncaster last week (will also run).

"He (Pacha Du Polder) has just been a bit behind as he had problems after Aintree and he came in late. He needed last week's run really badly and he will improve for that. I just said to Andy (Stewart, owner) he might not quite be the horse he was, but he might prove me wrong.

"He has got to come back to form a bit, but he needs to improve. Last year we had a clear run, but this year we haven't.

"I think Wonderful Charm will go very well. I'd say our best one if it all goes right and the ground is good is Wonderful Charm.

"He was beaten a head last year and was a bit unlucky. He won well at Musselburgh the other day, but he is ground-dependent and wants good ground.

"I just think he has a massive chance as all the other (Fesitval) races are mega competitive. They've (all) got chances but I think if the ground is good, he can go one better than last year.

"He is a little bit quirky and he is ground-dependent, but he is a good horse when he is right and we have just trained him for that race."

Jamie Codd has been booked by trainer Pierce Power to ride Foxhunter favourite Burning Ambition.

The seven-year-old racked up a sequence in point-to-points and was last seen going down by just two and three-quarter lengths to the classy Gilgamboa at Punchestown.

That effort resulted in the son of Scorpion being catapulted to the head of the market for the Foxhunter, with Codd taking over in the saddle from fellow Wexford man Rob James.

Power said: "Rob has been absolutely brilliant on him and he is one of the best young riders in the country.

"I just thought going to Cheltenham that it would be good to have someone with experience of the track. It's purely down to experience that we went with Jamie.

"The horse is in great form. He did a piece of work since he ran, and it went nicely. He is due to do another bit tomorrow.

"Hopefully the snow won't affect us, but we are down on the coast so we don't usually get it too bad. Fingers crossed now we get to Cheltenham in one piece."

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