Paul Nicholls Previews his best chances at Cheltenham

Paul Nicholls Previews Cheltenham Festival with Manor Farm Stables Visit

14-times champion Jump trainer, Paul Nicholls, shares insights and hopes for Cheltenham Festival during a media visit at Manor Farm Stables in Ditcheat, Somerset. Nicholls discusses strategies, contenders, and honors the memory of staff member Keagan Kirkby.

Cheltenham Festival Anticipation

Nicholls expresses cautious optimism for the upcoming festival, emphasizing the importance of meticulous preparation and acknowledging stiff competition from the likes of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott. With around a dozen runners expected, Nicholls emphasizes quality over quantity, highlighting the strengths of his chasers.

Remembering Keagan Kirkby

The visit carries added significance as Manor Farm Stables mourns the loss of staff member Keagan Kirkby, whose love for Cheltenham and dedication to horses leaves a lasting impact on the team. Nicholls reflects on the resilience of the team amidst adversity, dedicating each victory to Kirkby’s memory.

Leading Festival Contenders

Nicholls provides insights into key contenders:

Bravemansgame (Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup)

“Obviously he was second in the Gold Cup last year and ran an absolutely screaming race.

“This season just hasn’t worked out brilliantly for him. The first day he went to the Charlie Hall, as did the previous year when he won on ground that suited him. This season the ground was heavy and he had a harder race – he probably wasn’t quite 100 per cent ready and just got a bit tired at the back of the last. He still ran a solid race.

“Bryan Drew (owner) was then quite keen to go to the Betfair Chase, which was also run on testing, ground and then I didn’t have a lot of time to get him to his absolute best for Kempton.

“At Kempton, I thought he actually ran a really good race. In my view, he and Shishkin would have been first and second. Cobden (Harry, jockey) has his view and Nicky (Henderson, trainer of Shishkin) has his.

“I don’t think there is much between him and Shishkin He picked up and galloped all the way to the line and Harry thought he ran a good, solid race.

“I don’t think we seen him at nowhere near his best so far this season but he is right back there now. Harry schooled him last Tuesday and he jumped brilliantly. We are taking four for an away day at Kempton tomorrow and he will work with Captain Teague.

“I am actually very happy with him now and saw he was 20-1 which after finishing second last year and running solidly this season looks massive.

“Obviously Galopin Des Champs is the one we all have to beat and I think us, Shishkin and Fastorslow are all much of a muchness.

“If he runs like last year, he will be thereabouts again.”

Captain Teague (Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle, Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle)


“He won his bumper last year and then finished third in the Cheltenham bumper, when he wasn’t beaten far.

“We sent him hurdling and he won a small novices’ hurdle at Chepstow and then was second at Cheltenham when we learned a lot about him.

“He then went to the Grade One Challow Hurdle at Newbury over Christmas, when he stayed on dourly and won very nicely. He’s smart horse.

“He’s going to Kempton tomorrow and will work with Bravemansgame. It won’t be anything flashy, just for a day out.

“He is in two races but if the ground is like it usually is at Cheltenham I think I would be slightly leaning towards the Albert Bartlett but I will leave the decision until late. I am convinced the trip and coming up the hill in the Albert Bartlett will suit him well given the way he stays on is his races. There is plenty of stamina in his pedigree.”

Ginny’s Destiny (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, Turners Novices’ Chase)


“He must be one of the most improved horses in training, arguably.

“He has won his last three races, all at Cheltenham, and was very good on New Year’s Day and on Trials Day when the New Course suited him well.

“He’s made all on his last three runs, jumped well and stayed on well up the Cheltenham hill.

“The owners sent him to us from Tom Lacey and he was so backward and needed his first run for us. He’s improved massively and is a good, solid horse, who jumps and gallops well.

“I’d say he is one of our best chance and I think he is still improving. He’s very straightforward and a proper horse.

“He is very talented and we are looking forward to running him. I think he is nearly favourite for the Turners and is ready to go in it.”

Hitman (Ryanair Chase)

“He was third in the Ryanair Chase last year, when he ran very well, and goes in it again.

“He had a wind op in the late autumn and needed the run at Cheltenham on Trials Day. He then ran a blinding race when second to Shishkin in the Denman Chase at Newbury which I was delighted with.

“He has got loads of talent and it was arguably one of his best runs the other day.

“If the ground is good to soft in the Ryanair I’d say he’d have an outside chance. He doesn’t win very often but always runs a good race.”

Liari (Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, JCB Triumph Hurdle)

“He’s juvenile that has run three times this year and has won all three.

“He won at Wincanton first time out, then a Listed race at Aintree on very heavy ground and then at Musselburgh three weeks ago when he won another Listed race when he made all.

“He has two options, off 134 in the Boodles or in the Triumph. I expect if we go anywhere it will be the Boodles off of that mark or we could look at the Triumph if it looks like being a small field. Or we could wait and maybe go to Aintree.

“He’s a smart horse who I don’t think we have seen the best of. He’s got plenty of speed and jumps well.”

Quebecois (Weatherbys Champion Bumper)

“He is a nice young bumper horse and will go to Kempton tomorrow to work with Stay Away Fay as he hasn’t run for a while.

“He is a half-brother to Brindisi Breeze and was second in an Irish point-to-point last year.

“We always liked him and he went and won at Exeter without coming off the bridle and hasn’t done anything wrong. We really like him.”

Sonigino (Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle, Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle)

“He is in the Coral Cup and the Martin Pipe off of 143.

“I’d favour running him in the Martin Pipe with Freddie Gingell riding him.

“He’s won two nice handicaps already this season, including at Aintree off of top weight. Harry said they never went quick enough for in the Lanzarote as he needs a fast run race and the Martin Pipe should suit him.

“He’ll be chasing in the autumn and that’s when I think we’ll see the best of him.”

Stage Star (Ryanair Chase)

“Obviously he won the Turners last year and needs to be fresh.

“He has a few little issues and is not the easiest to train but when he is right he is very good.

“He won the Paddy Power Gold Cup off top weight very nicely despite making a mistake at the last. He galloped all the way to the line.

“I wish now I hadn’t run him at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. The ground was against him as it was absolutely bottomless, he made a couple of mistakes and I don’t think he was quite at his best. I as just struggling to get a run into him going left-handed in this country before Cheltenham and he needs a gap between races.

“He’s since had lots of physio and is back where we want him. He doesn’t need an away day as he goes well fresh and schooled well last week. I’d say he is right back to his best.

“If he hadn’t run on New Year’s Day I’d say he’d be favourite for the Ryanair. He loves the New Course and hopefully goes there with a great chance – Chloe who rides him every day is going round with a smile on her face which is good! Good to soft ground would be perfect.”

Stay Away Fay (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase)

“He won the Albert Bartlett last year and has had a good season novice chasing.

“He improved enormously from when he got beaten at Doncaster last year and Cheltenham and hopefully he will do the same again for his run on Trials Day this year ahead of the Brown Advisory.

“He won first time out at Exeter and won very well at Sandown. He also ran well in the Cotswold Chase, which was a bit of a muddling race and turned into a bit of a sprint. It did give him valuable experience against older horses though and we were pleased with that. He stayed on strongly late on and I think the Old Course in the Brown Advisory will suit him better.

“He goes to Kempton tomorrow which should put him just right. He is a good solid jumper and stays strong.”


Teeshan (Weatherbys Champion Bumper)

“He won an Irish point-to-point in the autumn very impressively and Tom Malone bought him for Johnny de la Hey.

“He had loads of time to acclimatise. He made his debut for us at Exeter last month and cantered round and absolutely bolted in.

“He goes for the bumper and is obviously a talented horse but who knows what he has beaten.

“Last year we were in a similar position with Captain Teague, who had won his bumper and then finished third at Cheltenham and won a Grade One hurdle this year. We’ll know more about him after he’s run in the Cheltenham bumper. He loves soft ground and travelled well at Exeter.

“Hopefully, he can follow what Captain Teague has done and follow a similar route. He looks a smart young horse.”

Nicholls offers insights into each contender’s preparation, form, and race prospects, providing a comprehensive overview of Manor Farm Stables’ aspirations for the prestigious festival.


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