Paul Nicholls

It would be fair to say that Paul Nicholls has bought more than one new pair of trousers since weighing in, at 10st 5lb, on Broadheath in the Hennessy Gold Cup in 1986. However, Nicholls retired as a jockey three years later, due to weight problems and, ultimately, to a broken leg sustained when he was kicked by a horse during morning exercise and has since become the foremost National Hunt trainer of his generation.

Nicholls spent two years as assistant trainer to David Barons, to whom he had previously been stable jockey, before responding to an advertisement placed in the Sporting Life by Paul Barber, owner and landlord of Manor Farm Stables in Ditcheat, near Shepton Mallet, Somerset. Nicholls took out a training licence in his own right and became tenant of the former dairy farming facility, with a string of just eight horses, in November, 1991. After a modest start, he gradually increased his winning tally, year-by-year, but enjoyed his real ‘breakthrough’ season in 1998/99, when he saddled over 100 winners and won over £1 million in prize money for the first time.

Indeed, it was during the 1998/99 season that Nicholls saddled his first Cheltenham Festival winner, or winners, namely Flagship Uberalles in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, Call Equiname in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and See More Business in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. That high-profile treble was sufficient to win the leading trainer award for the first time and, although he would not saddle another Cheltenham Festival winner until 2003, he won the award again in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Fast forward a decade or so and Nicholls has saddled at least one winner at the Cheltenham Festival every year since 2003 and his career total of 45 winners makes him the third most successful trainer, behind only Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson, in the history of the famous March meeting. Highlights of his training including winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup three more times, with Kauto Star in 2007 and 2009 and Denman in 2008 and, of course, winning the Stayers’ Hurdle four years running with Big Buck’s in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

2018 Cheltenham Festival Results

Tuesday, March 13 – – – Wed | Thu | Fri

1.30pm SkyBet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
(Grade One) 2m 110yds £125,000
1 Summerville Boy 9/1
2 Kalashnikov 5/1
3 Mengli Khan 14/1
19 ran

2.10pm Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase
(Grade One) 2m £175,000
1 Footpad 5/6F
2 Brain Power 14/1
3 Petit Mouchoir 4/1
5 ran

2.50pm Ultima Handicap Chase
(Grade Three) 3m 1f £105,000
1 Coo Star Sivola 5/1F
2 Shantou Flyer 14/1
3 Vintage Clouds 7/1
4 Beware The Bear 14/1
18 ran

3.30pm Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
(Grade One) 2m 110yds £450,000
1 Buveur D’Air 4/6F
2 Melon 7/1
3 Mick Jazz 25/1
11 ran

4.10pm OLBG Mares’ Hurdle
(Grade Two) 2m 4f £120,000
1 Benie Des Dieux 9/2
2 Midnight Tour 33/1
3 Apple’s Jade 1/2F
9 ran

4.50pm National Hunt Chase
(Amateurs) 4m £120,000
1 Rathvinden 9/2
2 Ms Parfois 11/2
3 Sizing Tennessee 8/1
16 ran

5.30pm Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase
(Listed) 2m 4f 110y £70,000
1 Mister Whitaker 13/2
2 Rather Be 12/1
3 Rocklander 25/1
4 Barney Dwan 15/2
19 ran

Wednesday, March 14 – – – Tue | Thu | Fri

1.30pm Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
(Grade One) 2m 5f £125,000
1 Samcro 8/11F
2 Black Op 8/1
3 Next Destination 4/1
14 ran

2.10pm RSA Chase
(Grade One) 3m 110yds £175,000
1 Presenting Percy 5/2F
2 Monalee 10/3
3 Elegant Escape 9/1
10 ran

2.50pm Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle
(Grade Three) 2m 5f £95,000
1 Bleu Berry 20/1
2 Topofthegame 9/1
3. Barra 16/1
4 William Henry 8-1JF
26 ran

3.30pm BetWay Queen Mother Champion Chase
(Grade One) 2m £400,000
1 Altior EvsF
2 Min 5/2
3 God’s Own 40/1
9 ran

4.10pm Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase
(Handicap) 3m 7f £65,000
1 Tiger Roll 7/1
2 Urgent De Gregaine 12/1
3 The Last Samuri 11/4F
16 ran

4.50pm Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
(Grade Three) 2m 110yds £80,000
1 Veneer Of Charm 33/1
2 Style De Garde 12/1
3 Nube Negra 15/2F
4 Padleyourowncanoe 33/1
22 ran

5.30pm Weatherbys Champion Bumper
(Grade One) 2m 110yds £75,000
1 Relegate 25/1
2 Carefully Selected 6/1
3 Tornado Flyer 14/1
23 ran

Thursday, March 15 – – – Tue | Wed | Fri

1.30pm JLT Novices’ Chase
(Grade One) 2m 4f £150,000
1 Shattered Love 4/1
2 Terrefort 3/1F
3 Benatar 10/1
9 ran

2.10pm Pertemps Network Final
(Listed Race) 3m £95,000
1 Delta Work 6/1
2 Glenloe 9/2 f
3 Connetable 33/1
4 Taj Balandabad 40/1
23 ran

2.50pm Ryanair Chase
(Grade One) 2m 5f £350,000
1 Balko Des Flos 8/1
2 Un De Sceaux 8/11F
3 Cloudy Dream 10/1
6 ran

3.30pm Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle
(Grade One) 3m £325,000
1 Penhill 12/1
2 Supasundae 6/1
3 Wholestone 14/1
15 ran

4.10pm Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate
(Grade Three) 2m 5f £105,000
1 The Storyteller 5/1F
2 Splash of Ginge 25/1
3 King’s Odyssey 14/1
4 Ballyalton 16/1
22 ran

4.50pm Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
(Grade 2) 2m £80,000
1 Laurina 4/7F
2 Cap Soleil 10/1
3 Champayne Lady 80/1
14 ran

5.30pm Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase
(Amateurs) 3m 2f £70,000
1 Missed Approach 8/1
2 Mall Dini 4/1F
3 Squouateur 5/1
4 Double Ross 40/1
22 ran

Friday, March 16 – – – Tue | Wed | Thu

1.30pm JCB Triumph Hurdle Race
(Grade One) 2m 1f £125,000
1 Farclas 9/1
2 Mr Adjudicator 8/1
3 Sayo 33/1
9 ran

2.10pm Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle
(Grade Three) 2m 1f £95,000
1 Mohaayed 33/1
2 Remiluc 50/1
3 Whiskey Sour 7/1
4 Chesterfield 16/1
24 ran

2.50pm Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
(Grade One) 3m £125,000
1 Kilbricken Storm 33/1
2 Ok Corral 16/1
3 Santini 11/4F
20 ran

3.30pm Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup
(Chase) (Grade One) 3m 2f 110yds £625,000
1 Native River 5/1
2 Might Bite 4/1F
3 Anibale Fly 33/1
15 ran

4.10pm St James’s Place Foxhunter Steeplechase
(Amateurs) 3m 2f 110yds £45,000
1 Pacha Du Polder 25/1
2 Top Wood 50/1
3 Barel Of Laughs 14/1
3 Cousin Pete 66/1
24 ran

4.50pm Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
2m 4f 110yds £65,000
1 Blow By Blow 11/1
2 Discorama 33/1
3 Early Doors 9/1
4 Sire Du Berlais 10/1
23 ran

5.30pm Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase
(Handicap) (Grade Three) 2m 110yds £105,000
1 Le Prezien 15/2
2 Gino Trail 25/1
3 Top Gamble 8/1
4 Theinval 16/1
23 ran

Willie Mullins

Willie Mullins is the son of the late Paddy Mullins, who saddled the legendary mare Dawn Run to win the Champion Hurdle in 1984 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1986. However, although he had won the Champion Hurdle four times, with Hurricane Fly (twice), Faugheen and Annie Power, Willie Mullins had ‘hit the woodwork’ in the Cheltenham Gold Cup so many times prior to the 2019 renewal that he had all but resigned himself to never winning the ‘Blue Riband’ event. Nevertheless, after six second-place finishes, Mullins finally claimed his first win in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when Al Boum Photo – only third choice of his four runners in the betting market – stayed on strongly from the final fence to beat Anibale Fly by 2½ lengths.

Mullins has still yet to win yet the Queen Mother Champion Chase, but Al Boum Photo was one of four winners for his Co. Carlow yard which, along with seven placed finishers, were enough to edge out Nicky Henderson and win Mullins the leading trainer award for the sixth time in his career. Indeed, Mullins remains the most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival with 65 winners, although he is just one winner ahead of Nicky Henderson.

Mullins saddled his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Tourist Attraction, in 1995, but has really come into his own since winning the leading trainer award for the first time in 2011. He missed out to his old rival, Nicky Henderson, in 2012, but was leading trainer again in 2013, 2014, 2015 – the year in which he saddled a record eight winners over the four days – and 2016. Aside from his victories in the Champion Hurdle and, more recently, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Mullins has also won the Stayers’ Hurdle twice, with Nichols Canyon and Penhill. Of course, Mullins can no longer rely on the services of his former stable jockey, Ruby Walsh, who retired in May, 2019, so what the effects that might have remain to be seen.

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