Paul Nicholls’ decision to swerve the Cheltenham Festival with a number of his leading lights paid off significantly after he opened up a lead of over £500,000 in the Jump Trainers’ Championship which concludes at Sandown on Saturday 24th April.
The 11 time champion trainer enjoyed a Grade 1 Aintree double on the opening day of the Randox Grand National Festival last week and ended it as the Festival’s leading trainer.
“Heading to Aintree with fresh horses made a big difference”, said Paul Nicholls. “The first day of Aintree was absolutely superb and I was thrilled for Ged Mason and Sir Alex Ferguson on landing a Grade 1 treble.
Obviously, Megan winning on Saturday after both my jockeys got hurt, eased the day.
“Considering we didn’t race for two months (in May and June) and have effectively had a 10-month season, not 12 months, I’m mighty proud of what we have achieved.
“After Aintree, you’d have to say it would be difficult to get beat for the Trainers’ title. I’m currently £500,000 plus in front of Dan [Skelton] and recouping those winnings doesn’t happen in two weeks. We’re just carrying on as normal and having plenty of runners – it’s all but in the bag really.
“It will be nice to regain the title. I was a bit frustrated last season, which ended prematurely because of Covid. Nicky (Henderson) was obviously in front after the Cheltenham Festival, but we had a big team lined-up to run at Aintree and then on to Ayr and Sandown. We never had the chance to challenge him. So, to get the title back this year, what with all the issues, will be fantastic.
Numerically, our record last season was 171 winners and we’re only nine off beating that statistic so that’s another milestone that I’m aiming for. If we can crack 172 winners and secure my 12th Champion Trainers’ title – it would be awesome and it reflects so well on the whole team.
There’s all this talk about the Irish this and the Irish that, but we’ve not exactly had a bad season and will hopefully land 172 winners with over £2.5 million in prizemoney, it’s not exactly been bad!”
Of his stable jockey, Harry Cobden, Nicholls said, “Harry this season, up to last Saturday had ridden 123 winners, of which 104 of those where trained by me. He has had an amazing season, if you think Brian Hughes and Harry Skelton are that much older than him. It wouldn’t surprise me if the three– Hughes, Skelton and Cobden – go head-to-head again next season.
“My biggest battle over the next few years will be Dan Skelton without a doubt. Then, the two Harrys (Skelton and Cobden) will challenge one another – that will be interesting! I keep Dan on his toes and I’m proud of the fact that he was with me for nine-years and is achieving so much.”