Paul Nicholls is enthusiastic about big-race success returning to his yard on a regular basis in the future after describing his current crop of juvenile hurdlers as the best he has ever had.
While currently lacking the real flagship horses to challenge in the headline Grade One events at next month’s Cheltenham Festival, the Ditcheat handler is far from concerned.
With Nicholls holding a strong hand in this year’s JCB Triumph Hurdle all the signs point towards the nine-times champion trainer having in his possession horses that could dominate the National Hunt scene for years to come.
He said: “I’ve got the best lot of four-year-olds I’ve ever had. I’ve got some really nice horses and a lot haven’t run that we will save until next year as well.
“How I see it I’ve been buying lots of juveniles to go forward and that’s what I’m going to do this year. It’s where the future lies.
“It’s impossible to go buy something like Kauto Star, Master Minded or Big Buck’s that have had eight, nine or 10 runs. Now you have to buy them after one run as those horses are never for sale, the whole thing has changed.
“You hope that you get a nice lot of youngsters that will creep on through. At the moment, with the ratings these have as juveniles, if they jump fences in time could end up as 160-plus chasers, or there might be a Champion Hurdle horse among them.”
Although it is unlikely Nicholls will run all seven entries he currently has engaged in the Triumph on on March 18, there are four in particular that are more likely than not to run he is extremely keen on.
He said: “I could end up running four in the Triumph and I don’t think there is a lot between them.
“Connetable is horse that had nice form in France. He was second for us on his debut at Ascot behind Gibralfaro. We had the same trouble with this horse as Dodging Bullets had with a splint.
“We thought he would improve enormously and he beat Rayvin Black and Peace And Co in the Contenders Hurdle. That form got a boost at the weekend. He is a decent horse and has already got a mark of 150 which is quite high for a juvenile.
“Frodon is another nice juvenile. He had smart form in France and won one, but ran in all the good races and actually ran in a Grade Two chase on his last run in France. He has been brought to make a nice chaser in time. He came over late and was very lean.
“He took a while to come to himself and needed his run at Cheltenham. We actually fancied him to win at Haydock at the weekend.
“He is in the Fred Winter, but I’d say he will probably run in the Triumph. I think he is a progressive horse.
“Tommy Silver will run in the Triumph. Off 134 he has got it all to do but he is on a par with all those horses and I think he could end up on a lot higher rating than 134 by the end of the season.
“He is a decent horse but probably lacks a little bit of experience. He was very impressive at Musselburgh the other day. All he will do is improve and improve as he is a big, strong horse.
“Clan Des Obeaux has arguably got as good a form as any of them. He is a proper horse. He won at Newbury on his debut. He went to Cheltenham on trials day. I don’t know how he got beat, but he did. He is a big chasing type for the future.
“Mr Barber parts owns him with Potensis and it will take me a bit of persuading to let him run in the Triumph. Better ground will see him in better light and he has had that bit of experience around Cheltenham now.”
Although excited about his Triumph Hurdle hopefuls, and what they may turn into, Nicholls admitted finding a winner at Cheltenham this year may be a much harder task than has previously been the case.
He said: “If I get one winner, anything on top of that is a bonus and I’ve always said that. We had an amazing day last year with three on the Wednesday which was just fantastic.
“This year I think it will be quite hard to go to the Festival and have a winner. As usual we will just do our best and see.
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