Nicholls happy with his team

PAUL NICHOLLS has hit back at claims his Ditcheat team are out of form.

The British champion trainer has had one or two high-profile disappointments this month, notably Kauto Star in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton last weekend.

However he insists he is pleased with his team overall.

Writing in his column at he wrote: “It does irk me somewhat when people look at my strike rate of 12 per cent in January so far, and just assume that my yard is under a cloud. Indeed, I even read somewhere that the well-being of my string should be “seriously questioned” if we don’t have a winner this weekend. I must be missing something.

“Yes, that strike rate is considerably lower than in previous Januarys, where I have consistently won with more than one in five of my runners, despite it traditionally being a quiet spell for us because of the flu jabs we give to the horses during the month.

“But I like to think I am more open than most when it comes to revealing information about the stable - be it injuries, breathing operations, and maybe even earplugs in the future! - to Betfair customers, the BHA, the racing channels and the written press.

“And I can tell you here and now that, as I write this, I have no concerns about the overall health of my horses.

“Yes, it is disappointing when horses run below par and don’t win, and there have perhaps been a few too many this month. And a 12 per cent strike rate is far less than I normally would expect, I readily admit that.

“But lazy generalisations and comments tend to build up a momentum.

“So on Monday morning, I asked Timeform to go through all of my horses who have run in January and see if they performed above or below their Timeform master rating (horses that either failed to finish or were making their hurdling/chase debuts and had no comparable form were ignored - and , for the record, they included impressive winners such Minella Stars and The Minack, so I am not hiding behind statistics.

“Fourteen improved on their Timeform master ratings, and 17 did not. Indeed, nine of the 17 ran at least a stone below form, with the likes of King’s Legacy (50lb) Free World (33lb), Kauto Star (31lb) and My Will (30lb) all running races some way detached from their peak.

“As far as I am aware, sick horses do not tend to improve and among those not to have performed anywhere near their mark all have individual, not collective, reasons why they ran poorly.”

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