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Paul Nicholls Stable Tour ahead of 2019 Cheltenham Festival

Paul Nicholls guides us through his Cheltenham Festival squad as Clan Des Obeaux and Frodon head a young team on the up from Ditcheat.

The Star Turns

Clan Des Obeaux

As you know, he’s one of the favourites for the Gold Cup. He’s had a great season, going very well in the Betfair Chase, went to Kempton, won the King George very well and then won well at Ascot in the Betfair Denman Chase. Everything with him has gone to plan, he looks great, he’s come out of the race very well. He’s just progressive, he won the King George nicely, it was a bit of a soft race the other day but he raced a Grade 1 winner in Terrefort and absolutely murdered him. It was good to see him travel so well the other day and jump, then quicken all the way to the line. He’s just taken a while, he had various issues last season and from the day he won his three-year-old hurdle we thought he’d make a proper chaser. People say he hasn’t won at Cheltenham in four starts. Well, the first time he ran he was only just beaten in a juvenile Listed race, he should never have run in the Triumph Hurdle, he was then second as a five-year-old to Whisper in the Dipper, and then he was second in the Caspian Caviar carrying 11-12 from a horse carrying 10-2. He was still learning then. Now we are where we want to be, he’s done all the talking in his last two runs and we’re very excited about running him in the Gold Cup. Of all the horses running in the Gold Cup he is the improving youngster, there’s a lot of older horses in it but we don’t know where he’ll end up being rated.


He's had an absolutely wonderful season this year, he’s just improving all the time. He won the Old Roan first time out, then was second at the November meeting where we probably didn’t ride him as we should have done. A change of tactics and he won the Caspian Caviar Handicap under top weight and then obviously won the Cotswold Chase the other day. We left plenty to work on that day, you might’ve said he was too fat looking at him in the paddock at Cheltenham, you could almost describe it as the first run of the season again. We haven’t run purposely since January to keep him fresh and well for Cheltenham. As you know there’s been a lot of debate as to what he’ll run in, he’s in the Ryanair and the Gold Cup. I’ll make a plan when we can see what’s going to run in what race and we’ll decide on which race he’s got the best chance in. I’m not worried about the trip in the Gold Cup as he’ll gallop and stay all day, but it will be a lot tougher race than the Ryanair over that trip and the Ryanair may cut up. We’ll leave it late until making the decision. I wouldn’t run him in the Gold Cup for the sake of it if we thought we could win the Ryanair.

Paul Nicholls with Clan Des Obeaux and Frodon
Paul Nicholls with Clan Des Obeaux and Frodon

The One Who Doesn't Go


He's the highest-rated horse in training which has been an interesting talking point. Ratings are achieved on what they do, and he’s just an enormous improver. He’s a little bit like Clan in that he’s just needed a bit of time to grow into his frame. We’re always changing things to improve them and he has just got to where we want to be. He won by half the track in his Ascot handicap and then he won the Betfair Ascot Chase last week, the Grade 1. If you’d have taken him out and had Politologue, Waiting Patiently and Colin’s horse [Fox Norton] racing together you’d have said what a race and there Cyrname was 100 yards in front of them. He’s all class. He won 17 lengths and came in the next day, ate his grub and you wouldn’t know he’d had a race. So he’s obviously got a huge engine. My dilemma now is where we go with him, he definitely won’t be running at Cheltenham or Aintree, not this year. We will go left-handed again in the future, but for now we’re going to stick right-handed and go to Sandown or Punchestown ground depending. Next year he’ll be trained for the King George and Gold Cup, but that’s a long way off. He’s a little bit like Kauto and he is quite versatile.

The Next Generation


He has entries in the RSA and the JLT, but he’s almost certain to run in the RSA. The only way he’d run in the JLT is if Cheltenham is a foot deep in mud. This is one of the tallest horses you’ll see in training, he’s well over 17 hands, he’s huge as you can see, loads of ability. He won at Sandown over hurdles, got beat a head in the Coral Cup at The Festival and then went chasing. Bit of a disaster on his first run, he whipped round at the start at Exeter in the race Defi Du Seuil won, basically the flag went down and he just spooked and whipped round. It was all about experience that day and then he went to Kempton at Christmas and finished second to La Bague Au Roi and that looks really good form. He looked the winner that day but was a little bit green. We purposely haven’t run him since, he goes well fresh and he goes straight to the RSA.

Grand Sancy

He’ll run in the Supreme Novices’ on the first day. He’s rated 152, which is high for a novice. He’s had a great season, was beaten in the Tolworth by Elixir De Nutz, we then ran him the other day in the Kingwell and actually won beating Sceau Royal and Vision Des Flos who won the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell. He’s tough for a novice, a proper horse now, he doesn’t look light in any way at all he’s come out of the race well. He’s every bit as good as Al Ferof and Noland that have run the race for his before, he’s probably quite a big price. Al Dancer is favourite , they’re rated the same, I wouldn’t think there’s too much between them. He’s a good chance in an open race. The last novice we had that won the Kingwell was Azertyuiop who won the Arkle and the Champion Chase so it would be nice to think he might go on. I suspect he’ll be chasing next season.

Pic D’Orhy

Here’s a horse you haven’t seen run yet and on his French form he’s got a mark over here of 149 which puts him right up there with the best juveniles in this country and in Ireland. He’s a real chasing type that we’ve bought with the future in mind. He’s won three times at Auteuil, has been second in a Grade 1, so he’s a proper horse, we took him to Wincanton for a gallop the other day and we were thrilled with what we saw. Sadly he’s not qualified for a novice hurdle at Kelso on Saturday, so I either go straight to the Triumph with him, or we skip that and go to Aintree and then one of the better French races with him. He’s a lovely horse. He could end up in the Triumph, but I suspect we’d only go if it was on the soft side.

Getaway Trump

He was second to Champ in the Grade 1 Challow at Christmas having won two novice hurdles before that. Things just didn’t go right for him in the Betfair Hurdle at Ascot the other day, he is a bit of a hold-up horse when they go a good gallop. They went no gallop at all, he got a bit behind and he stayed on and finished fourth. He really wants 2m4f and my dilemma now is which race to run him in. He’s still only rated 143, he could run in the Ballymore but the Coral Cup off 143 is looking quite attractive. He could also go to Kelso and Aintree. At this stage I’d say he’d go to the Coral Cup.

Posh Trish

She’s going to run in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle on the Thursday. She’s rated 143, she’s one of our top-rated novice hurdlers and I see Nick Henderson’s Epatante is rated 143 as well. This mare’s had a bit more experience, she’s won a bumper at Cheltenham, has won a few times over hurdles, she’s tough, she gallops, won twice in a week over Christmas, won a Listed race at Taunton over two miles, she’s a proper mare. She’s just what you want at Cheltenham. Ideally she’d like a bit of cut in the ground and ideally wants a bit further, but we’ve been making plenty of use of her over shorter and she’s got really good form. It’s nice to have a good mare to run, she’ll make a nice chaser in time. We think she’s got a great chance.

Friend Or Foe

He’s one of the favourites for the Fred Winter and that’s a race we’ve done well in the last few years. We thought he might be a Fred Winter type when we bought him. He’d had two runs in the summer in France, he joined us early in September and was a bit of a weedy thing, he needed a bit of time. So we looked after him, built him up, took him to Taunton over Christmas and he made all the running and won very nicely. He’s got a mark of 128, the handicapper said he’d start off 115 and he’s quietly crept up without even running. We’ve purposely not run him since as it’s pointless him winning again and going up another 7lb. Off 128, the last three or four years he’d have got in towards the bottom of the weights. I’d be very hopeful of a good run in the Fred Winter.

Quel Destin

He’s second favourite for the Triumph behind Sir Erec. He was a bit green at Chepstow first time up, just lacking a bit of experience, but he hasn’t been beaten since then. He won a Grade 1 at Chepstow, he’s won a couple of Grade 2s, won at Cheltenham, then came back the other day and won at Haydock. I was surprised how well he won there, he was big and well but I thought he’d need the run, which he did and he still managed to win. He’s improved since then and he’s a proper tough four-year-old. He can make the running, be nice and handy, he jumps well and he keeps on galloping. He’s one of our leading chances next week. I know Sir Erec is a very short-priced favourite but he’ll have to be tough to go past this lad. He keeps winning and keeps getting better. Just because he hasn’t got that sexy Flat appeal of Sir Erec he’s probably a bigger price than he should be.

The Handicappers

Le Prezien

He won last year’s Grand Annual. He’s a pound higher than when he won last year, he ran at Sandown the other day but that was soft ground and he doesn’t really want it too soft. He always comes good in the spring, but he’s probably handicapped right on his limit, last year everything went right for him, they went absolutely flat out in the race and he just jumped and stayed on past them up the hill. He’s got to sharpen his jumping up a little bit, but he does always come good in the spring. If it rained and slowed them down a fraction that would help him. If he can put in one of his better rounds of jumping he’s not without a chance again.

Give Me A Copper

He’s in the Ultima Handicap Chase and he’s actually favourite at the moment. He’s fragile, but he’s a very talented horse, he won his only point to point, a couple of bumpers, won his novice chase at Kempton and missed the best part of 18 months through injury. He came back in at Sandown the other day and ran a really good fourth, travelling well, jumped well, just got a little bit tired from the second last. He hadn’t been for a gallop or anything, I purposely left it to that race to bring him on, the idea being he’ll go to the Ultima and if he goes well in that, onto the Grand National. I’d be very hopeful of a big run from him in the Ultima.

Magic Saint

He won the two-mile handicap chase at Wincanton a few weeks ago. He’s just taken a bit of time to acclimatise. At Haydock he was a little bit keen, then he ran a little bit better at Ascot, we gave him a bit more time and then we dropped him in trip at Wincanton 10 days ago and he sluiced in. He jumped well, travelled well and I’ve always been training him with the Grand Annual in mind. From what I know of him I’d say he’d have a leading chance in that, he’s a progressive horse that will just keep going forward. We really like him. Hopefully he’ll be better than a handicapper in time.

Touch Kick

He runs in the Kim Muir, he won well the other day and Will Biddick rides him. He's one there with a little shout, it's a hard race to win that.

Close Brothers Novices' Chase

We've got Movewiththetimes, Capeland, Brelan D'As entered, it's a race I've won before and hopefully one of those would have a little chance. I might run Capeland in the Arkle. He was a bit unlucky not to win last time and he might be the sort of horse that outruns his odds and runs into a place. I think the race might cut up, so he might well run. He just needed the run on Saturday.

Best Of The Rest

Pacha Du Polder

He'll run. Cheltenham seems to suit him when they go flat out and you can ride him from behind, pass a few horses. He seems to know how to go at Cheltenham so he and Wonderful Charm will both run in the Fox Hunters'. It will be his last run. Megan will have him hunting and that so he'll always have a good home here.


He's going to Aintree. John [Hales, owner] was disappointed but if you took the winner out the three horses behind him finished closely together. I think he ran okay, he's always had a breathing issue, but he's better off going to Aintree and I said to John, let everyone else go to Cheltenham we'll keep him fresh and go to Aintree, so that's what we're doing.

Black Corton

He will probably run at Kelso on Saturday and miss Cheltenham and go to Aintree. I don't see any point in running him at Cheltenham.

Ask For Glory

I've put him in the Champion Bumper. He won at Chepstow at Christmas but Paul [Barber, co-owner] is not that keen on running him. He's one for the future, he's a nice horse he is.

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