Nicholls odds-on for major blank

  • By: Andy Schooler
  • Last Updated: February 20 2013, 13:25 GMT

Paul Nicholls is odds-on to draw a blank in the championship races at the Cheltenham Festival for the first time since 2006.

Paul Nicholls with Zarkandar (l) and Silviniaco Conti
Paul Nicholls with Zarkandar (l) and Silviniaco Conti

Boylesports and William Hill have the star trainer at 4/9 to miss out this year, while he is rated a 13/8 chance to win at least one of the four big races - the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, World Hurdle and Gold Cup.

Nicholls, who won two of the four major races last season, has been hit with a number of injury blows this season, including Big Buck's and Al Ferof.

However, he still has some well-fancied horses, including Zarkandar in the Champion Hurdle and Silviniaco Conti in the Gold Cup.

He is rated an 8/1 chance to win two or more of the championship races by Sky Bet, who also offer Zarkandar and Silviniaco Conti in a double at 40/1.

Nicholls, who paraded his team in front of the media at his Ditcheat stables on Wednesday morning, is less likely to taste success in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the World Hurdle, according to the layers.

Sanctuaire will carry his hopes in the Champion Chase, with Celestial Halo considered an outsider for the World Hurdle, a race won by Big Buck's in each of the last four years.

Sky Bet subsequently make Nicholls 100/1 to win three or more of the major races - a feat he managed in 2009.

Nicholls is offered at 10/1 by Hill's, Boylesports and Stan James to finish the Festival as top trainer.

Boylesports also bet on how many winners Nicholls will have in total at the four-day meeting next month.

More than 2.5 is an 11/10 chance, with fewer than 2.5 offered at 4/6.

Hill's have a slightly different market - they make a total blank a 12/1 shot, with four or more winners at 10/3. Two winners is regarded the the most likely outcome for Nicholls (2/1).

The Cheltenham Festival takes place from March 12-15.