Nicholls happy out of spotlight for Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham Festival - 2017 - Winner of the Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival 2010

Nicholls happy out of spotlight for Cheltenham Festival

The final preparations are in full swing for the Cheltenham Festival 2020 which runs from March 10th to 13th. Hopes are rising that the coronavirus outbreak will not force a late postponement for the best four days of National Hunt racing anywhere in the world.

Trainer Paul Nicholls has not been the leading trainer at the meeting since 2009 and is adopting a low key approach to this year’s festival. He believes that his best chances are on the closing day so here is a rundown of his Cheltenham plans.

Quiet start to Cheltenham for Nicholls

Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh dominated the Cheltenham Festival between 2004 and 2009, topping the list for five out of six seasons. Although not able to prevent the tide of winners from Ireland’s Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott in recent seasons, Nicholls remains philosophical and is very much a leading player. With 28 races over the four days and horses like Altior and Tiger Roll in action, it promises to be another thrilling meeting. is a well-established racing site which provides full coverage of the Cheltenham Festival. There are predictions for Cheltenham 2020 along with expert advice and detailed analysis of all the top races. There are regular updates on where the smart money is going and the best bookmaker offers and free bets throughout the week.

At his recent press gathering, Nicholls suggested that he may not have a runner on the opening Tuesday and could be watching from the pub! That comment surely masks a bit of frustration that he does not have the ammunition to be competitive in races like the Champion Hurdle and the Arkle.

Support for Protektorat in Coral Cup

Nicholls will certainly be “chomping at the bit” by the time Wednesday arrives and he is optimistic ahead of a red-hot renewal of the Champion Chase. He saddles Politologue and Dynamite Dollars, both regarded as outsiders in a contest billed as a three-horse race.

Altior faces rising stars’ Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi but the Nicholls’ duo are by no means outclassed. Politologue was runner-up 12 months’ ago and Dynamite Dollars looks certain to improve for his recent run behind Altior at Newbury.

Protektorat has seen significant market support in the ante-post betting for the Coral Cup. He has already shown that he can be competitive in big handicaps when second at Sandown in December. Nicholls has won the Fred Winter Hurdle three times, most recently with Diego du Chemil in 2016. His entries this year include recent winners Mick Pastor and Thyme White.

Frodon provided one of the highlights of the meeting last year when winning the Ryanair Chase under Bryony Frost. They are currently third favourites behind Irish raiders A Plus Tard and Min but will not go down without a fight.

Solo rated something special

Nicholls has seen many top-class horses come and go but there is no hiding his excitement over French recruit Solo. He made a stunning UK debut at Kempton recently which catapulted him to the top of the Triumph Hurdle betting. His future is surely over fences but the stable will be looking to him to strike in Friday’s opener.

That will set the scene for dual King George VI Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He appeared not to stay last year when only fifth and the general opinion is that he is a much better horse on Kempton’s flat track. If the ground dries out significantly, he will have more chance of arriving late on the scene and providing Nicholls with a record-equalling fifth Gold Cup victory.

By Harvey Mayson

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