Paul Nicholls: Dominant Cheltenham will seal trainers’ title for Willie Mullins

Paul Nicholls has conceded it would be near impossible to claim a ninth National Hunt Trainers’ Championship should Willie Mullins dominate at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

Despite sitting some £200,000 clear of nearest rival Philip Hobbs at the top of the table and more than £800,000 ahead of Mullins, the Ditcheat handler feels retaining his title could be too big an ask if his Irish counterpart enjoys the success expected at the four-day meeting next month.

He said: “We’ve had a bit of a slow start, but then if I’ve had a slow start everybody must have had a slow start as I’m still £200,000 in front.

“We’ve got loads and loads to run through the spring. We probably haven’t got the stars that we had for the big races and we are probably going to have to wait a couple of years for that.

“If Willie wins all those races – the Champion Chase, Champion Hurdle, all those big races – then it’s going to clearly be impossible to beat him, but at the end of the day what will be, will be.

“He is a good guy and I was in that enviable position a few years ago and I was full up of all those superstars and it makes it tough for everybody else.

“I’ve been lucky and I’ve been there and now we’ve got to rebuild and try to find some to take him on. He has got a fantastic squad and if they all run up to their best they will be hard to beat.”

He went on: “If we have a good spring and win it (championship) great, but if Willie has an awesome Cheltenham then it will make things interesting. It all depends what happens at Cheltenham.”

Although winning the title once more would be welcome news to Nicholls in what has largely been a season of transition, he again insisted it is not the be all and end all should he not pull off the feat.

He said: “At the end of the day no one ever believes me that I’m not just doing it to be champion trainer – I’m trying to bring along those young horses.

“If we win, fantastic, but as I said we are not solely getting up in the morning working hard to win the trainers’ championship.

“I’ve said that 100 times before and that’s fact, but it is very nice if you do it.

“At the end of the day we are still a long way in front and I’d like to think we can crack £2million in prize-money.”

Nicholls was faced with a drama away from the racetrack on Saturday when 15 horses at his Highbridge yard had to be led to safety after becoming trapped in a flood which engulfed the yard.

He said: “It was just a flash flood that happens once in three years. We had about four or five foot of water in the yard for a number of hours and the next morning it was all gone.

“It was a nightmare at the time, we had to evacuate the horses and re-bed them all down the next day. Now you wouldn’t know anything had ever happened.

“Just the electricity has been a nightmare since, as it got damp. The only damage is all the horses’ beds got washed out. It was just a nuisance happening on a Saturday night with no staff about.”


Venetia Quick, co-founder of ‘Grief Encounters’ tells Ruth O’Connor that there is no right or wrong way to grieve the death of a loved one.Grief Encounters: Podcast opening up conversation about bereavement

Once again for this week’s review I was reminded about the quality of Irish meat — and yet it seems the meat processors expect our farmers to produce it at a loss.Restaurant Review: Mister S, Camden St Upper, Dublin 2

Your guide to what's going on in the gardening world this week.Gardening notes: Your guide to what's on

I went to Holy Faith in Clontarf in Dublin and I still have a big group of friends from school. These days, like most people, we use a WhatsApp group to communicate!School Daze with Nadia Forde: I wish I had embraced my differences at school

More From The Irish Examiner