Jumps stable tour: Paul Nicholls chasing record-equalling 15th trainer's crown with team headed by Bravemansgame | The SunOctober 21, 2022
THEY say 60 is the new 40, and champion trainer Paul Nicholls is still as pumped up as ever for the new season.
Somerset-based Nicholls celebrated the landmark birthday with a big bash earlier this year.
And he was also able to toast a 14th trainer’s crown after fending off the challenge of long-time rival Nicky Henderson.
He has a promising squad of young horses coming through the ranks at his Ditcheat yard, most of whom will be brought along steadily.
But it is his established group of stars who he hopes will propel him to a 15th title – putting him level with the great Martin Pipe.
Chief among them is the top-class Bravemansgame, who missed his intended target at Cheltenham because of soft ground.
He was disappointing when redirected to Aintree, but Nicholls still has very high hopes for the seven-year-old.
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Nicholls said: “The King George is very much the plan for him but there are lots of races he could run in beforehand.
“He could go to the Charlie Hall if he is ready or he could go to Sandown the week after for that Intermediate Chase if there was rain about.
“My idea is to give him one run before the King George. We are very happy with him, we just want to keep him big and well and try and keep the form going into the spring.
“It might sound stupid but he was prepared to run at Cheltenham and he had done enough by the time Aintree came round.
“He still doesn’t convince me he is a dour three and a quarter mile stayer until he proves otherwise and Cheltenham and the Gold Cup is a different test to three miles around Kempton.
"He looks great and I’m happy with the way he is.”
Greaneteen galloped to an impressive win in the Tingle Creek last December under Bryony Frost – just days after she had given evidence at the Robbie Dunne hearing.
The eight-year-old’s season will revolve around another crack at the Sandown Grade 1.
Nicholls said: “He was amazing last season. He is always the underdog and doesn’t get the credit he deserves but he won another two Grade 1s last season and he loves Sandown.
“We will follow the same route and go to Exeter for the Haldon Gold Cup, then go to Sandown for the Tingle Creek, but if we have to go straight to the Tingle Creek we will.
“I think the reason he likes Sandown is that he has speed and he jumps well. He just loves it around there and it seems to suit his style of running.”
Fan favourite Clan Des Obeaux won a Grade 1 for the fourth straight season when landing the Bowl at Aintree in April.
He was unable to defend his crown in the Punchestown Gold Cup a few weeks later – finishing a brave second to – and those two races will again be on his agenda.
Nicholls said: “I’m sure there is another good race in him and his ultimate target this season will be the Bowl at Aintree as he loves it around there.
“I expect he will go for the King George as well. He has won it twice and he deserves to be in there. Last season I made a mistake not running him before the King George.
“I’ve got several options for him and we will find a race for him before Kempton. He looks good but I think he saves his best for the spring."
Hitman has been knocking at the door in Grade 1 company for the last couple of years.
He will kick off his campaign at Aintree at the end of the month before a potential crack at three miles in the King George.
Nicholls said: “He ran well in the Haldon Gold Cup and the Tingle Creek but his best run was when he was second at Aintree behind Fakir D’Oudaries.
“He has had a breathing operation in the summer and that has just helped him and will hopefully give him more stamina.
"We might start him off in the Old Roan at Aintree as he likes the track and two and a half miles suits him.
“He could end up running in the King George as I think he will benefit from going three miles."
Frodon will also be back on track before the end of the month as he heads to Northern Ireland to defend his crown in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase.
Nicholls continued: “Frodon has been brilliant and we will start off in the Grade 1 at Down Royal he won last year.
"He was ready for his life that day and the same will happen this season.
“He won’t win a Gold Cup and is unlikely to win another King George but that race suits him well and he will probably run in that again.
“Races in the second half of the season like the Silviniaco Conti Chase and Oaksey Chase are ones for him.”
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Among the younger horses who Nicholls has high hopes for this winter is Stage Star.
He won the Challow Hurdle before the wheels fell off, so he is set to go novice chasing.
Nicholls explained: “Stage Star is a Challow Hurdle winner, though he went a little bit Pete Tong in the spring like Bravemansgame.
"He has had a breathing operation which will help.
“We will start him off somewhere small then go for a better race. I always thought he would be a good chaser over a hurdler.
“We didn’t see him at his best in the spring but I’m sure we will get him back and he looks great at the moment."
And perhaps the horse that the Nicholls team are most excited about is Monmiral.
He looked top-notch as a four-year-old and is expected to fulfil his significant potential now going over fences.
Nicholls said: “Monmiral is a very interesting horse. He got that injury in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and we were left catching ourselves up a bit.
“He ran a bit fresh and free at Fontwell in the National Spirit and then he stepped forward in the Grade 1 behind Epatante at Aintree.
“We will start him at two miles and see where we end up. Often a good two mile chaser needs to stay so I would say he would be just that.
“The Henry VIII might be an ideal target for him. He is going to be a high-class chaser.”
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