Nicholls hunts O'Brien landmark

Paul Nicholls closed to within £100,000 (€123,598) of Aidan O’Brien’s prize-money mark for the last Flat season by saddling a treble at Cheltenham.

Paul Nicholls closed to within £100,000 (€123,598) of Aidan O’Brien’s prize-money mark for the last Flat season by saddling a treble at Cheltenham.

Having already passed the £3m (€3.7m) mark in this phenomenal campaign, the champion trainer has a week to pass the Irishman’s haul of £3,484,026 (€4.3m) as Le Duc, Earth Planet and Oberon Moon all scored.

Ruby Walsh has not been 9-2 favourite Le Duc’s best ally but the pair combined to short-head Mokum in a dour struggle for the Jardine Lloyd Thompson Handicap Chase.

“The prize-money’s not really something I’m thinking about and I suppose Aidan had a lot fewer runners, but it would nice to show it could be done in the jumps season,” said Nicholls.

“Le Duc and Ruby never really got on and I think Ruby gave up riding him for about two years.

“I was a little bit worried when it rained but he’s a good, fun horse and I think he just didn’t see out the trip in the cross-country races here.”

Walsh had to earn his fee twice more, firstly on 3-1 favourite Earth Planet to unravel the strong run of Irish raider Newton Bridge in the Mitie Handicap Hurdle.

“He’s going to be a nice chaser next season and I think he is just suited by two and a half miles on better ground,” added Nicholls.

Oberon Moon (13-2) was less fancied in the closing Endsleigh Insurance Novices’ Handicap Hurdle but some Walsh magic got him up on the line.

Stan and Aidan Coleman fulfilled all of owner Paul Beck’s racing dreams with victory in the Mears Group Silver Trophy Chase.

Venetia Williams’ 15-2 shot took the Grade Two event with a length and a half defeat of Il Duce.

“It has been a difficult year having lost my nice horse Sobers, but Stan has just given me my first winner at Aintree and my first at Cheltenham. I can die now,” said Beck.

Another big-race victory could still be on the agenda, as Williams explained: “He’s entered in the two-mile handicap chase at Ayr on Saturday and he’ll go there if he’s OK.”

Beat The Boys (3-1) had too much bounce for a weary-looking Joe Lively in the Cheltenham Collection Novices’ Chase to come home 10 lengths clear.

His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said the Scottish National at the weekend could still be a possibility.

Alan King has also enjoyed by far his most prosperous season as a trainer, lying second in the standings for winners and third in prize money.

His loyal rider Robert Thornton dragged Squadron (9-2) home ahead of the closing 2-1 favourite Hot Diamond in the Cheltenham Racing Ltd Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle.

Jamie Moore was stood down and taken to hospital complaining of a pain in his neck after falling from Harry Tricker.

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