Paul Nicholls is looking to take back Irish dominance in jump racing

Paul Nicholls is looking to win the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and wrestle back the Irish dominance in jump racing… the 60-year-old’s appetite for the sport is undiminished and he still gets ‘as much buzz’ as he ever did

  • Paul Nicholls is hoping to win on Boxing Day at Kempton despite the competition
  • Nicholls is hoping he can wrestle back the Irish dominance across jump racing
  • Despite being 60, Nicholls still gets ‘as much buzz’ as he ever did from winning
  • Bravemansgame is his best chance of winning at Kempton, says Nicholls 

Paul Nicholls is launching a challenge for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day is nothing new. He has won the centrepiece of the Christmas racing programme a remarkable 12 times.

But if the 13-time champion trainer can win it again with any of his three runners — Hitman, Frodon and Bravemansgame — there will be added satisfaction, given it will come on the 30th anniversary of his first ever Grade One win.

There have been 138 top-level successes since, but it was the victory of Graham Bradley-ridden See More Indians in the Feltham Novices’ Chase carrying the colours of Paul Barber, the man who appointed him to train from his base in the Somerset village of Ditcheat, that got the ball rolling.

Paul Nicholls is hoping Bravemansgame (pictured) has a good chance of winning at Kempton

Nicholls remembered the job interview which might have changed racing history if he had got it wrong.

He said: ‘I can remember the day See More Indians won as if it was yesterday. I started training in 1991 and he was one of the first horses which got us going.

‘I never imagined back in those days we would achieve what we have. I know other people who applied for the job with Paul but I must have impressed him. I always remember one of the last things he asked me was ‘Do you play golf?’. I was thinking ‘Sh*t, what do I say here? Is he a big golf man?’.

‘Then I thought dad always taught me to tell the truth so I said, ‘No, I bloody hate golf. I haven’t got time to play and train race horses.’ He replied that’s what I wanted to hear. I might have finished it then and there if I’d said yes.’

Barber has owned four of Nicholls’ 12 King George winners, twice winning the race with See More Business and twice with Clan Des Obeaux, which he jointly owns with Ged Mason and former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

Now 60, Nicholls’ appetite is undiminished. He is determined to wrestle back the dominance of the Irish in jump racing and one day find a horse as good as Kauto Star, who he trained to a record five King Georges.

 ‘I get as much buzz and satisfaction as I ever did’: Nicholls still loves the feeling of winning

He said: ‘We have a lot of young horses coming through and are rebuilding, we are not going slower! I get as much buzz and satisfaction as I ever did. It’s 24/7, you never stop, but it’s like Sir Alex winning all those Premier Leagues and European Cups — it’s in you, you want to do it. The minute that goes you want to be packing up but I can’t see it ever going.’

Inevitably, all Nicholls’ King George winners are measured against Kauto Star, whose name is now attached to the race.

Nicholls added: ‘He was totally exceptional. He would work with Master Minded, who was one of the best two-mile chasers ever, and laugh at him, but have the ability to keep galloping for three-and-a quarter miles.

‘I don’t think anything will ever compare with him and it would be hard to better his fifth King George win when he beat Long Run.

‘He was 11-years-old and the buzz from the crowd before, during and after the race, I will never forget.’

‘I don’t think anything will ever compare with him’: Nicholls said of Kauto Star (pictured) 


Bravemansgame (13-8): ‘He probably deserves to be favourite. This has been his target since he won the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase over course and distance last year. He has had a great preparation and looks fantastic.’

Frodon (16-1): ‘Won the race two years ago and isn’t getting any younger. He’d need a near career-best to win but is as good as he has ever been.’

Hitman (7-2): ‘He is rated four pounds beyond Bravemansgame, which isn’t a lot. He his only six and achieved a lot for a young horse. He is going into the unknown over three miles but I think it will bring out improvement.’ in him.’

Nicholls thinks that Bravemansgame is his best shot at winning the King George on Boxing Day

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