The 2008 winner of the blue riband was joined by stable companions Big Buck’s, Poquelin and Ghizao in a spin at Wincanton yesterday, and the trainer was delighted with the Prestbury Park-bound quartet.
Denman came up slightly short when bidding for a third win in the Hennessy Gold Cup in November and while he finished an honourable third to Diamond Harry, Nicholls feels the corrective procedure he has subsequently undergone will help him on his Festival return.
“Obviously, there was no disgrace in finishing just over 15 lengths third to Diamond Harry at Newbury, giving that very talented rival 26lb,” said Nicholls
“So why did we see fit to give him the operation? Well, in last year’s Gold Cup and the Hennessy I didn’t think he was finishing the races as well as he could.
“Before Denman first ran in Ireland, he had a hobday operation but he didn’t have his soft palate cauterised.
“So we had that done a week after the Hennessy, and I just hope that it will improve him slightly and allow him to finish off his races a little better.
“We took four of our big Festival guns for a racecourse gallop this morning, and they all fired nicely.
“They all worked over two miles, going a nice steady gallop, then quickening up in the final furlong.
“Denman (Sam Thomas) worked with Big Buck’s (Harry Skelton), and Poquelin (Ian Popham) worked with Ghizao (Nick Scholfield).
“All four went nicely, but it was not a serious gallop. It was just a nice trip out for them.”
Meanwhile, Nicholls will try to persuade co-owner Paul Barber to run Aiteen Thirtythree in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham.
Nicholls and Barbers enjoyed success in the staying novice chase championship with Denman in 2007 and Nicholls feels that race is right for Aiteen Thirtythree.
The seven-year-old is generally available at 12-1 for the RSA on March 16 after winning unchallenged at Newbury on Friday.
“Paul (Barber) likes him a lot and he jumped great on Friday,” said Nicholls. “I don’t think running in the RSA did Denman any harm, but it’s something I’m going to have to have a chat about with him.
“I won’t go against Paul’s wishes and we’ll do what’s right for the horse.
“We’ll have to see.”