Paul Nicholls is one of the leading trainers on the National Hunt racing circuit, and with the jumps season about to get back underway, with the November Meeting at Cheltenham seen the curtain-raiser, the 59-year-old will be keen to get his hands back on the British jump racing Champion Trainer trophy, an accolade he has won 11 times over the course of the last 15 years or so.
So, with just a matter of a couple of months to go until the 2021-22 season gets underway in Britain, read on as we take a look at four Nicholls-trained horses to watch across the course of the next exciting six months or so.
Frodon enjoyed a rather successful season last year, winning three of his five outings. He started the campaign with a victory at Cheltenham, beating West Approach by a length and a half in a GBB Handicap Chase, and after finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase at Aintree, jockey Bryony Frost guided him to a surprise victory in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day at Kempton, winning from a huge 20/1 on sites like Smarkets. It wasn’t to be in the Gold Cup, as he could fare no better than fifth, but the now nine-year-old rounded the season off nicely with a Grade 2 victory in the Oaksey Chase at Sandown. What route Nicholls chooses for Frodon this year will likely depend on his early-season form.
Clan Des Obeaux
It wasn’t the best of starts to the season for Clan Des Obeaux, as he finished second in the Lancashire Chase at Haydock and in the Denman Chase at Newbury, whilst a third-place finish in the King George VI was wedged in between. After bypassing Cheltenham, and Nicholls confirming it’s the last we’ll see of the nine-year-old at Prestbury Park, the Sir Alex Ferguson-owned horse had a fantastic end to the season, winning the Bowl Chase at Aintree in April before stunning two-time Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo to the Punchestown Gold Cup in Ireland. Clan Des Obeaux is favourite for the King George VI, and with no Cheltenham on the cards, Nicholls will likely have his sights set on the Grand National Festival, where Clan Des Obeaux will be out to defend his Bowl crown.
Bravemansgame made a great start to his first full season as a novice, winning a GBB Novices’ Hurdle at Exeter after coming second at Chepstow, and he kicked on from there, landing back-to-back victories at Newbury, including in the Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle, where he beat Star Gate by a huge 10 lengths as he showed his star qualities. However, the six-year-old couldn’t step up to the mark on centre stage, finishing third in the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham before coming second to Ahoy Senor in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree. Bravemansgame’s odds of winning the Festival Novices Chase are currently sitting at around 11/1, but he will face stiff competition from the likes of Willie Mullins’ Galopin Des Champs and Dan Skelton’s My Drogo.
One of the most exciting horses coming out of Nicholls’ yard, Paso Doble has the potential to have a fantastic season this year. Under the guidance of Jim Bolger, the youngster won two races, including the Roscommon Racecourse Handicap from a massive 40/1, before being bought by Graeme Brooks for €125,000 and being moved to Nicholls’ stable. Paso Doble came third in his debut for the English trainer, a Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle, but won next time out in a GBB Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton. If Harry Cobden or Frost, both of which have taken a ride each since Nicholls became the horse’s trainer, can get off to a good start to the season in Paso Doble’s saddle, then we could see him feature in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, which Nicholls hinted at entering him in last season.