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About: Paul Nicholls Racing

Recent Posts by Paul Nicholls Racing

Ant and Dec have little to worry about

Sat at my computer once again at 5:30am with another week in front of me, I do so hopeful this week won’t be quite as manic as the one we have just enjoyed.

I am all for being busy but for whatever reason last week felt like I took one breath in, blinked and here we are again.
I should imagine that every jump yard in the land at the moment is pretty well the same, what with spring festival preparations now well under way and horses running nearly every day. People do say time flies when you’re having fun so things can’t be bad.

The blog this week could be a little disjointed down to the nature of my week so apologies if it’s not great, there is just so much to fit in. Now, the question is where to start and I think first of all I am going to tell you about my week before going on to some stories from the yard of interest.
With Cheltenham on the horizon we hosted the BBC Points West cameras on Tuesday and they shadowed me for the morning, filming a normal day with me and undertaking an interview all about what I get up to working for Paul – by all accounts this piece is going to be aired on Points West during Cheltenham week. Now it was of course cool to get a phone call to be asked to do this and, after a conversation with Damien from the ‘beeb’I only had one question for him; “Of course I’ll do it, but do you not want to do it about someone a little more interesting?”
The answer was seemingly not however and they duly followed me round for the morning, I can’t think it will make compelling television, but I should imagine the two men that came down to film it won’t forget their experience for a while mainly down to the fact they are probably still drying out.

Dodge relishing his new role

Without doubt, not just for this season, but for the past couple of years the horse who received the biggest volume of blog space was the one and only Dodging Bullets, my old mate who is now retired living only 10 minutes away with Lucy Sharp who looked after him all his life here at Ditcheat. Very sensibly Lucy gave Dodge a long and well deserved rest when he was retired, letting him adjust to his new life on the family farm and allowing him to get used to not other racehorses but a hairy Shetland, dogs, chickens and whatever else one might come across on a farm.
However Dodge is now back into ridden work and with his new career in its infancy the time had come for him to have a trip off the farm, not to gallop round a racecourse as he was so used to doing, but just to where Kate, my girlfriend, keeps her horse where a riding arena is situated.
Lucy and I took Dodge on the 10 minute journey with an over excitable racehorse in the back and as we arrived it was pretty clear Dodge believed he knew what he was there for. I legged Lucy up onto Dodge and he strutted down the track towards the school as if he owned the place and into the dimly floodlight arena where the funniest meetings of horses took place.
Kate rather amusingly has a quite lovely horse called Harry, a winner on the British eventing circuit and re-homed by Kate from a brilliant organization called World Horse Welfare. I always say that it looks like Harry was built to pull a plough, so you can imagine how funny it was when the former Champion Chaser met his new pal, you could not have found horses with such different paths in life but there they were; the rescue horse now introducing Dodge to his new challenges.
I let the girls get on with it as, in the words of Kate unless I’m on a gallop I’m completely hopeless on horseback, so watched from a distance but what I saw bought a huge smile to my face. A once quite mad racehorse that would sweat at the thought of training and jig-jog every stride he wasn’t galloping was now walking and trotting round the arena in perfect control, head tucked in with no semblance of his wild past to be seen. This was the first chapter of what is going to be an active retirement for Dodge and it was fantastic to see him learning new skills so quickly. He remains a horse I am utterly fond off and always will be.

Corton continues to confound

On the racecourse we had a successful time of things with Black Corton and Bryony continuing this quite remarkable campaign of theirs, winning the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novice Chase at a canter, he now heads for the RSA and at this stage how could anyone ignore him? What I love about him is that you can see all season he is growing with confidence, his jumping is getting better all the time and together B and Blackie make a great team.

I know this game of ours is focussed completely on winners and I totally get that, but on Friday a mare I am particularly fond of ran a brilliant race to finish second in ground she hated, that mare is called If You Say Run. She really is the most charming little horse who I have loved since she arrived last season and I can’t wait to see her run on some spring ground in due course, I was so proud of her at Sandown as she came back to the winners’ enclosure. You could see she had absolutely given her all and that, as I always say, is the best quality any racehorse could possibly have.

Larkhill winner leaves Ed with a sore head

I’ll leave you with a little bit of news from Sunday which made my weekend for sure. I talk all the time in my blog about the talents of our team of riders, it is something I am really proud of, all of them with lofty ambitions for the future and targets they want to reach. This weekend though the rider I was most pleased for probably won’t be doing it in a few years time, he has no massive ambitions in fact he is just doing it for the fun and that is a guy called Ed Henderson, a really good mate of mine who is studying law at Exeter University.
When I first saw Ed ride around two years ago, it was quite something to behold, he hadn’t been riding all that long at that stage and brought something of an alternative style to the saddle, less John Francome more John Wayne in fact.
However, Ed has worked extremely hard to improve his riding and improve he has, so much so that he rode a winner at Larkhill on Sunday, much to the delight of us all. The last message I got from him was around 6pm explaining to me he was fairly well hydrated at that stage so I should imagine he’ll be later out of bed than some today.

My final note today before I finish is a thank you, and that is to a remarkable little horse called Zarkandar, four times a winner at the very highest level he has been one of the flag bearers of our yard for sometime now and my gosh he’s put his stint in. Zarkandar is a fantastic little horse with a character much bigger than himself, he’ll be missed in the yard and remembered for an awful long time, a happy and well deserved retirement now awaits him.

So there we have it, another jam-packed week has flown by and the week and I’m sure the one in front of us will be as busy, but that is without doubt a good thing and with the evenings now slightly drawing out my favourite season of spring is just around the corner. Happy Monday everyone.


February 19, 2018

Prolific Black Corton delivered yet another master class in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

With his coat gleaming with good health he looked amazing in the paddock before making all the running and beating two smart rivals in a style that fully advertised his claims in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham. The relentless rate of progress by Black Corton has astounded me all season. This was his eighth win over fences as a novice and his seventh with Bryony Frost who gets such a great tune out of him.

Early on in the summer and autumn we didn’t appreciate how good he was but we do now and we have every reason to believe in him. He took things to a new level on Saturday despite my concern before the race that he wasn’t spot on after a short mid winter break. Black Corton missed a couple of weeks after he trod on the bulb of his heel and pulled off a shoe when winning the Kauto Star Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. We think he did it when swerving to avoid the fallen Fountains Windfall four out. We then gave him a break before freshening him up for the Reynoldstown which looked the ideal prep race for Cheltenham. Black Corton is a fantastic horse who is all Class and he will definitely come on for the run at Ascot as he always does after a break. Further ahead I already see him as a suitable candidate for the King George V1 Chase at Kempton next December.

Frodon ran a cracker to be third in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase considering he was too keen in the early stages of the race. I’d say getting into a battle in the first mile cost him. But for that he would have been a fair bit closer at the finish. He is likely to head next to Cheltenham for the Ryanair Chase although it’s possible we could miss the Festival with him and wait for the Grade 1 JLT Melling Chase at Aintree.

Virak won nicely at Haydock and is now qualified for the Foxhunters at Cheltenham in which we also run Wonderful Charm, Unioniste and last year’s winner Pacha Du Polder who is out at Doncaster on Wednesday.
It was frustrating to see Silsol part company with Noel Fehily at the first fence in the Grand National Trial at Haydock. Conditions were ideal for him and he proceeded to jump round riderless. Silsol might make a quick re-appearance in the Eider Chase at Newcastle on Saturday.

Nor did the cards go our way in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton where Cliffs of Dover, on his comeback, shot off in front like a five furlong sprinter. He was never going to keep going at that pace and was eventually pulled up. Cliffs of Dover was fine on Sunday and I am tempted to find a race for him on the flat as he is only rated 64.

I’d like to end this bulletin with a heartfelt tribute to Zarkandar who was retired on Saturday after finishing fourth in the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock. That was always going to be his last race, win, lose or draw. Zarkandar has been a superstar for the yard down the years, winning no less than ten Graded races including four Grade 1’s starting with the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham back in 2011.
In his prime he was an awesome hurdler with a great attitude and he won so many big races for us, including, most memorably the Grade 1 Grand Prix D’Automne at Auteuil. During his long career at Ditcheat he earned in excess of £900,000 for his proud owners. Although Zarkandar still retains his enthusiasm in his homework at the age of eleven, he has lost a bit of pace, and it would be wrong to keep racing him now that the fire is not burning quite so brightly. We will find him a good home, as we do with all our horses.

Next weekend I will have plenty of runners including Cyrname and Art Mauresque at Kempton and one or two at Fontwell including Old Guard.

For all the latest news of my runners please turn to my Betfair column early on Friday evening.


February 12, 2018

The emphatic success of Modus at Kempton on Friday was the high spot of a frustrating weekend for Team Ditcheat when most of our runners were unsuited by racing in the extremely testing ground.

It’s been frustrating waiting for the ground to dry up but unfortunately there is no sign of it happening just yet. There’s no doubt that most of ours simply don’t operate as well in the mud which is so exasperating when they are in such good form at home at the moment.

I was thrilled with the way Modus jumped and travelled at Kempton where the going was fine just as it was at Musselburgh the previous weekend where we enjoyed four winners. The obvious race for Modus at the Festival is the JLT though I’ve yet to discuss plans for him with his owner JP McManus and his racing manager Frank Berry.

Politologue did best of ours at Newbury on Saturday but had no answer when Altior came past him after the last fence in the Betfair Exchange Chase. There is no point in making any excuses as we were beaten by a better horse on the day. While Politologue could have done with a lead he still ran very well but the winner was impressive. It is going to be hard to turn the form round at Cheltenham but we will give it a go.

Saphir Du Rheu ran a fair race to three out in the Betfair Denman Chase before tiring given that he was still heavy despite loads of work over the past few months. He came back in late after sustaining an injury in the Grand National and I warned everyone that he badly needed the run. He is a big horse who takes an age to get fit. He will definitely come forward for the outing and next time in the Gold Cup on better ground I’d expect him to improve massively.

With my remaining runners Newbury all at sea on ground that became softer by the minute I pulled Danny Kirwan out of the bumper. His is a name to remember for the future.

I thought Diego Du Charmil ran a cracker in finishing second to the smart novice Saint Calvados at Warwick on his first outing for four months. He is going the right way and will be one to note in handicaps once the ground dries up.

Next weekend the prolific Frodon will spearhead our team at Ascot in the £150,000 Betfair Ascot Chase. He is one of a handful of mine that can handle heavy ground. Black Corton is also under consideration for the Reynoldstown Chase.

For the latest news on my runners at Ascot and elsewhere on Saturday please be sure to turn to my Betfair column late on Friday afternoon.



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