Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls’ Top Chances At 2021 Cheltenham Festival
2021 Cheltenham Festival Tips – Paul Nicholls’ Best Chances
Paul Nicholls was leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival six times between 1999 and 2009. He and Ruby Walsh teamed up with the likes of Kauto Star, Master Minded and Big Buck’s to be the dominant force. Although the Ditcheat Trainer remains one of the most powerful yards in Great Britain, in recent years he has been unable to assemble the firepower to challenge the top Irish stables of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott.
Even so, Nicholls still sits third in the all-time trainers list at the festival meeting with 46 winners. He trails only Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson and has over 3000 career wins to his credit. Nicholls has won all the major Cheltenham prizes; Queen Mother Champion Chase (six), Champion Hurdle (one), Stayers’ Hurdle (four), Ryanair (three) and Cheltenham Gold Cup (four).
Politologue & Greaneteen (Champion Chase, Wednesday)
Ironically, the very best of the yard’s horses do not have suitable Cheltenham targets. Dual King George winner Clan Des Obeaux and the hugely talented Cyrname are not among his Cheltenham team this year. Nicholls, bemoaning his lack of entries in 2020, half-jokingly said he may as well watch the opening day of the festival from his local pub. However, he was soon back at the top table when Politologue won the Queen Mother Champion Chase on day 2 of the Cheltenham festival.
The popular grey was not an obvious choice last year but the late withdrawals of Altior and Chacun Pour Soi presented him with his chance of Cheltenham glory. He began his title defence with a win over stable companion Greaneteen in the Tingle Creek. The ten-year-old was turned over by First Flow at Ascot in January on his most recent start. Greaneteen ran with great credit at Sandown for a horse having only his sixth race over fences and could also line-up in the Champion Chase.
Bravemansgame (Ballymore Hurdle, Wednesday)
Although Nicholls is very protective of his horses, he is not usually one to build them up. It was therefore surprising that he was happy to compare Bravemansgame with Gold Cup winner Denman after the six-year-old won at Newbury in December.
The gelding had just defeated the promising Star Gate by 10 lengths in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle and has been aimed at the Ballymore ever since. He faces a strong Irish raiding party in that event but looks the pick of the home team and could reward some of those Cheltenham Free Bets for punters.
Next Destination (Brown Advisory Novice Chase, Wednesday)
Nicholls also has a live contender in the RSA Chase in Next Destination, a nine-year-old son of Dubai Destination. He was formerly trained by Willie Mullins and finished third in the Ballymore in 2018 before winning a Grade 1 at Punchestown.
He then suffered an injury and came back from a 920-day absence to finish second to Roksana over hurdles at Wetherby. He has won his first two races over fences in good style. Odds-on RSA Chase favourite Monkfish does look something special but Next Destination could certainly reward each-way support.
Frodon (Gold Cup, Friday)
Frodon stunned his better-fancied stable companions Cyrname and Clan Des Obeaux to win the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day. He has formed an unbelievable partnership with Bryony Frost and they have earned a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year.
Frodon has excellent course form, including his famous Ryanair victory in 2019. Nothing has emerged to seriously challenge Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup betting and Frodon goes there with a live chance.
Best Of The Rest
Barbados Buck’s runs in the Stewart colours made famous by Big Buck’s. He won a couple of modest staying events at Southwell at the end of last year before winning impressively at Kempton in January. The son of Getaway stays three miles well and could take his chance in the three-mile Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
He may be joined in that race by the progressive Threeunderthrufive, a game winner at Musselburgh in February on his first attempt at three miles.
The Champion Bumper is one of the few races at the festival to evade Nicholls but he has a couple of possible runners this year. Knappers Hill won nicely at Ascot in December and Petrossian was even more impressive at Newbury back in November.
The stable will also have a few darts to throw at the competitive handicaps throughout the festival and it will be surprising if they come away empty-handed.