Based: Ditcheat, Somerset
Stable jockey: Daryl Jacob
Best horse ever trained: Kauto Star
Number of Cheltenham Festival winners: 33
One word to describe him: Dedicated
Nicholls is one of the most successful trainers in national hunt racing and has won the top trainer award at the Cheltenham Festival six times. Opinionated, fiery and installed with a determined will to win, punters regularly turn to a Nicholls horse when in need of a winner.
How did he fare at the 2013 festival?
Although one Cheltenham Festival winner for most yards would result in huge celebrations and big parties back at the stable, the overriding feeling that the Nicholls operation were left very underwhelmed by their solitary success in 2013.
It was the first time since 2003 that Nicholls had failed to train two or more winners at the festival and highlighted the fact that his stable are very much in a transitional period following the retirement of some of his big stable stars like Kauto Star and Denman.
Salubrious’ victory came on the final day in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle and the relief on Nicholls’ face was clear to see in the winner’s enclosure. He knew that a blank would have raised questions about whether he still possesses the required firepower to compete at the top.
Salubrious’ victory, who was steered to victory by Nicholls’ nephew Harry Derham, came after poor showings from Zarkandar in the Champion Hurdle, Sam Winner in the Pertemps Final and Silviniaco Conti, who fell well very much in contention for Cheltenham Gold Cup success.
Memorable Cheltenham Festival winner?
Kauto Star – 2009 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Of all the 16 Grade One’s the spectacular racehorse won, his second Gold Cup success was in many people’s opinion his greatest ever achievement, although it’s hard to downgrade any of his five King George VI Chase victories or his unforgettable Betfair Chase win in 2011.
After winning the Cheltenham showpiece in 2007, the Clive Smith-owned spring-heeled beast was out battled by Denman in 2008 and had to defy a damming statistic of none of the 24 horses to have relinquished a Gold Cup had regained it.
In beating Denman by 13 lengths he and jockey Ruby Walsh was scoring by the widest margin since Master Oats won by 15 lengths back in 1995 and with his great rival following him home it made for one of the great steeplechases of all-time.
His greatness in National Hunt racing continued into the next decade and although he could never quite perform to his best at Cheltenham Festival again, memorable wins in the King George at Kempton and an amazing comeback performance in the Betfair Chase live long in the memory.
What races at the festival does he have a fruitful record in?
Nicholls is a master at getting a horse ready for a Cheltenham Gold Cup campaign. He specialises with these bulky chasers and has an eye for them from an early age. Since 1999 his record is simply sensational in the race that everyone wants to win, winning four times and saddling seven further to finish in the place money.
Unsurprisingly, when you consider his record in the big one, Nicholls also has a fine record in RSA Chase (arguably the Gold Cup for novices), where he saddled both Denman (2007) and Star De Mohaision (2006) to gutsy victories.
Best ante-post bet for 2014 festival?
One horse we’re really looking forward to seeing at the festival this season is high-class novice chaser Wonderful Charm, who looks to be Nicholls number one hope in the RSA Chase department this season.
Always highly regarded by the team at Ditcheat, the horse was deemed good enough to run in the World Hurdle last season despite his inexperience but never got competitive in a very hot race.
Chasing looks his game and confidence should be high regarding taking the 14/1 about him winning the three mile slug-fest round Prestbury Park.
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