Paul Nicholls Stable Tour for the 2021 Cheltenham Festival: Runners and Entries
Paul Nicholls is having one of his best seasons to date and as ever, he is looking to take a strong team to the 2021 Cheltenham Festival. He has been speaking to the Racing Post about his potential runners for the Festival.
He will be going into Cheltenham with a strike rate of around 25% – showing just how good a season the Ditcheat trainer is having. With superstars and fans favoruties such as Cyrname, Frodon and Politologue amongst his troops, it will be interesting to see which races they end up and for Cyrname if he makes it to the Festival at all.
Below are some of Nicholls’ main hopes for the Cheltenham Festival and the entries they hold.
Bob and Co
Entry: St James’s Place Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase (Friday)
Bob And Co is already qualified and his owner David Maxwell would ride him if he’s allowed. He’s the highest-rated of all our hunter chasers with a mark of 146. He won two races last season but he struggled a bit with his breathing and has had a wind op. That’s improved him a lot. He could run very well and I’m hopeful that amateurs can ride – it’s their Gold Cup and they ought to be there.
Entry: Albert Bartlett Novice Chase (Friday)
Verdict: He keeps improving, stays forever and deserves to take his chance. It wouldn’t surprise me if he won and he should run well. His win at Kempton showed he was impressive. He defied a 10lb penalty and Harry Cobden got off him and said you wouldn’t know what’s in the tank. He will gallop all day and that’s what you need to win this. It’s a step up in grade but he’s rated 139 so he deserves to be there. It’s great to have a nice young horse for his owner Andy Stewart.
Entry: Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Wednesday)
Verdict: He’s one of our best chances on paper. There are some good Irish challengers in the race, but this lad has done nothing wrong and won the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury impressively last time. He can’t do any more than keep winning and this will be a stiffer task against the best of the best. He’s improving all the time and we’re thrilled with him. I can’t wait for him to go chasing next season too.
Verdict: A star name of National Hunt racing, Cyrname proved to have stamina in the tank when easily winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby back in October. However, he disappointed in the King George at Christmas and was pulled up before the third last. He’s not a horse that usually makes the trip to Cheltenham because of his preference to go right handed, but he does hold entries in both the Ryanair and the Gold Cup, which was talked up after that Charlie Hall success.
Duc Des Genievres
Entry: Champion Chase (Wednesday)
Verdict: He’s entered, but I wouldn’t want to run him if the ground was too soft. He ran well on his first start for us behind Put The Kettle On at Cheltenham when he didn’t quite get up the hill. The ground was too heavy at Ascot when we held him up on his most recent start. He has breathing issues, which doesn’t help him, but if the ground is decent he could run.He’s entered, but I wouldn’t want to run him if the ground was too soft. He ran well on his first start for us behind Put The Kettle On at Cheltenham when he didn’t quite get up the hill. The ground was too heavy at Ascot when we held him up on his most recent start. He has breathing issues, which doesn’t help him, but if the ground is decent he could run.
Eglantine Du Seuil
Entry: Mares Hurdle (Tuesday)
Verdict: Another former Mullins in-mate, this mare hasn’t won since winning the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival in 2019. She’s shown very little in defeat for Nicholls this season either, and other than a fair enough effort to finish 2nd to The White Mouse at Cheltenham in December, she’s been very disappointing. The Mares Hurdle would be a possibility at the Festival this year, but she’d be something of an outsider.
Entry: Cheltenham Gold Cup (Friday)
Verdict: He was brilliant in the King George at Kempton. It was an extremely competitive field but he won cosily and had the run of the race. He’s arguably even better going left-handed as he jumped to his left a bit around Kempton. He’s shown he loves Cheltenham as a Cotswold Chase and Ryanair winner. I don’t think there’s an issue with him staying now as he’s crying out for the trip. The thing is you wouldn’t want him to get into a scrap with the likes of Native River so he’d have to be ridden sensibly. You don’t need to make the running in a Gold Cup. There are a lot of positives and I think it’s a very open race. I think we all have to beat last year’s winner Al Boum Photo, but there are question marks surrounding several in the field. You know he’ll run his race as he’s tough and genuine.
Frodon won the 2020 King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.
Entry: Champion Chase (Wednesday)
Verdict: He’s still a young, improving horse and I’m not sure he wants a scrap against all those older horses just yet in the Champion Chase. When Harry got off him at Sandown after the Tingle Creek he said he might want two and a half miles.
Entry: Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Tuesday)
Verdict: He was very impressive on his first run at Chepstow in October, when he hosed up by 12 lengths. He then pulled up at Cheltenham the following month and has had a breathing operation since. He’s been given a mark of 134, which is fair. At one point he was leading the betting for the Triumph, and he could have a prep race at Wincanton next Saturday.
Entry: Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Tuesday)
He came over from France and hadn’t been with us long before finishing third on soft ground at Chepstow last month. He travelled beautifully but just got a bit tired after the second-last. He’s got a fair mark of 128, travels well and should be suited by better ground.
Entry: Stayers Hurdle (Thursday)
Verdict: He had good form going into the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on his second start of the season and did well to finish third behind Thyme Hill and Paisley Park. It looked like he might win jumping the last, but he got outstayed and if we rode the race again we might have done things differently. He won nicely at Kempton last month and, stepping him back up to three miles, he might be better on a flat track so the plan is to go for the National Spirit [February 28] and then Aintree. However, if the ground was very soft at Fontwell, we might be open to running in the Stayers’ if it was good ground. He wasn’t far off the market leaders at Newbury, but at the moment he seems suited by flat tracks. He’s good enough to be at the festival.
Entries: Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (Wednesday)
Verdict: He joined us last June and has been a revelation this season. He ran very well when second behind Roksana at Wetherby in October after a 920-day absence. Then he won well at Newbury and Warwick. The ground at Newbury was as quick as he’d like and he jumped well at Warwick but is probably better on a galloping track. He will make a high-class chaser next season and deserves to run. Monkfish is the one we’ve all got to beat, but he can only go and do his best. Anything can happen in the novice chases at Cheltenham.
Entry: Champion Chase (Wednesday)
Verdict: The race cut up a bit when he won last year, but it was a brilliant performance. He ran a solid race the other day too. I was impressed with Chacun Pour Soi and if he replicates his win in the Dublin Chase then he’s going to be very hard to beat. We’ve got to do the best we can and Politologue is genuine and tough. He runs with his heart on his sleeve and will do the same this time. He’s a good Grade 1 winner who has deserved to win his races, but this will be difficult.
Politilogue wins the 2020 Champion Chase in great style.
Entry: Ryanair Chase (Thursday)
Verdict: He definitely wants better ground than he’s been running on and he travelled well in the King George. It looked like he had a good chance before fading out of it and it transpired that he bled. I’ve always seen him as a middle-distance horse so the Ryanair on decent ground should suit. He’s come along well and is getting used to our way of doing things.
Entry: Kim Muir Challenge Cup (Thursday)
He was placed in the hunter chase last year. He joined me only a month ago with the plan of going hunter chasing, but everything changed due to the pandemic as David [Maxwell] couldn’t ride him. We ran him at Wincanton last month and I thought he would run well, but he just needed it. It would have brought him on and he loves Cheltenham. He’s a nice, solid chance for us in the Kim Muir.
Soldier of Love
Entry: National Hunt Chase (Tuesday)
Verdict: Put together a four-timer in the summer but then stepped up to finish second in a class two at Cheltenham, when beaten by the NH Chase-bound Galvin. He’s since been pulled-up back at the same track in November, but could still follow Galvin to the National Hunt Chase.
Verdict: Unbeaten in his last four starts, including when stepped up to three miles to win the Scottish Stayers Novices’ Hurdle at Musselburgh. That would put him in the Albert Bartlett picture, or even the Ballymore if connections wanted to drop back to 2m5f.
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Paul Nicholl’s Cheltenham Runners FAQs
Cyrname is entered in the Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase but he prefers to go right handed so is unlikely to run at Cheltenham. However, no decision has been made and a Gold Cup shot was talked up after winning the Charlie Hall Chase.
Frodon is entered in the Cheltenham Gold Cup (current odds 16/1) and Paul Nicholls said "given his love for front running around Cheltenham, he’ll certainly give you a run for your money in the big race".
In his recent stable tour, there were 19 horses mentioned so he is likely to have around that number for his string of Cheltenham Festival runners.
Despite having an entry for the Gold Cup, it looks more likely that Real Steel will line up in the Ryanair Chase instead.
Last year's Champion Chase winner has a tough task this time around with Chacun Pour Soi the odds on favourite to win the 2021 Champion Chase. However, Politilogue won this race convincingly last year and looks a good each-way bet.
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