Paul Nicholls stable tour as countdown continues to Cheltenham Festival

Paul Nicholls has hailed Bryony Frost's partnership with Frodon as she bids to become the first female jockey to win the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The fans' favourites stunned the opposition in the Grade One Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day – and will try to repeat the performance on March 19.

Nicholls is seeking a record equalling fifth win, alongside Arkle’s trainer Tom Dreaper, in the meeting's feature contest, 12 years on from his last success with Kauto Star.

Frodon already has six wins to his name at Cheltenham and it would not surprise Nicholls if he could take his form up to an even higher level under Frost.

“They are a match made in heaven and they do get on particularly well," he said.

"She and Frodon have gone a long way and there is definitely a rapport between them. You wouldn’t want her not being on him. She knows him well.

“She was saying this morning how much of a turn of foot he has got. It’s the biggest race he will ever run in his life and he deserves to be there.”

Nicholls has won the race four times with Kauto Star, Denman and See More Business and another triumph this year would be particularly poignant for owner Paul Vogt.

"I know his owner Paul, who sadly lost his wife Ruth recently, is really proud," Nicholls said.

"It would be a massive boost if he ran well. He would be a mighty proud man just to have runner in the Gold Cup.

“He has been in racing a long, long time and to just have a chance in the Gold Cup will mean an awful lot to him and his family.

“He is the sort of horse that no one will expect to win the Gold Cup but if he did it wouldn’t be a surprise. No one expected him to win a King George, but he keeps surprising people."

Paul Nicholls stable tour

Amour De Nuit – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

Amour De Nuit would definitely get in. He has been running really nicely this season.

Ashutor – Johnny Henderson Grand Annual

He needed the run (at the weekend) a fraction and the idea was that the run would bring him on.

He has to improve quite a lot, but he’s a good solid jumper and likes a fast run race and novices have got a good record in this race so being a handicap he’s in there with a chance.

He probably has to improve, but he will definitely come on for Sunday’s run.

Barbados Buck's – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Andy (Stewart) has got some good young horses for the future and Barbados Buck’s is one of them.

He has been really progressive this season. He is rated 143 now and his form keeps getting better.

He has won his last three.

The last day at Kempton he carried a 10lb penalty and he was strong from the back of the last and he won nicely.

He is a proper staying horse and you need something here that will stay forever and he would be right in that.

He is so laid back he will be absolutely fine (with the step up in class). We’ve progressed all along the lines with him.

He beat the horse that day (at Musselburgh) that Barbados Buck’s beat at Southwell (Fantastikas) which won at Fontwell on Sunday.

They have got quite good form with him.

He is unbeaten over hurdles but you wouldn’t know what is in the locker with him as he only just does enough.

He goes along with his ears pricked, jumps well and he will definitely get every bit of the trip and is another with a nice chance.

This is a nice horse.

Bob And Co – St James’s Place Festival Hunters Chase

He won very impressively at Haydock the other day and it is just a shame David (Maxwell, jockey) has got such a fantastic chance in the race and he can’t ride it.

He has been sporting and said ‘get on and run him’ but he will get back on him the first time amateurs can ride again.

David puts a lot into the sport and he has got some lovely horses to ride and it is a shame he won’t be able to ride him in this race.

I think Bob And Co has a great chance.

Bravemansgame – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

The Challow was a nice race to win at Grade One level and he won very nicely that day.

He’s always been really progressive, right from the start of the season when he was beaten a neck by Soaring Glory, who won the Betfair Hurdle last weekend.

I was impressed that day by the fact that Harry (Cobden) could hardly pull him up afterwards, and he ran green and jumped green and my God did he improve.

Each run he’s got better and better and that culminated in him winning the Challow Hurdle at Christmas.

He was really strong at the back of the last and stayed on strong, so this is the obvious race for him.

He worked nicely this morning and I’m very happy with him and his preparation.

He’s a very relaxed horse, he’s not keen. At Newbury we just kept it simple because we knew he jumped and stayed, but a good strong pace suited him well.

He’s a good ride and a class horse.

It’s a hard race to win, years ago Denman was beaten in the race, so it’s a tough race to win and there’s some tough horses in it, but we think he’s got a great chance and he’s a lovely horse for the future.

He’s definitely improving physically all the time.

I think the best will come from when he jumps a fence in the future, but he’s going into the race with a leading chance I feel.

Cut The Mustard – Mrs Paddy Power Mares Chase

It might well be her and Eglantine Du Seuil might just want to wait for better ground.

We might just wait for the April meeting with them.

You have got to be in there as you can’t win it if you are not in it.

We will just wait and see if it is the right thing or not to run.

Duc Des Genievres – Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

Duc Des Genievres – Duc as we call him – won the Arkle two years ago and has run some tidy races this year.

I feel he’s just shy of a Grade 1 horse and we have to decide if he runs in this or runs in the Grand Annual, but he seems to be coming together now and he would probably want some slightly better ground.

Ecco Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

Ecco who ran very well the other day at Kempton would get in but he is very ground dependant and he likes good ground.

Eglantine Du Seuil – Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle/Coral Cup

She’s in the Mares’ Hurdle and she’s also in the Coral Cup, which is probably a race which might be a little more suitable for her.

She was a bit disappointing the last time she ran, and it’s just been hard to get her right.

She’s run a good couple of good solid races, and I think she wants good ground to get the best out of her.

If it was soft, I’d be thinking again about running her, so she’s one we’ve got to make a decision on next week.

If we did run, I’d say it’s more likely to be in the Coral Cup.

Gold Bullion – Weatherbys Champion Bumper

Gold Bullion is a very nice horse.

This might come a bit too soon for him after he won at Warwick and he may go for another race.

Greaneteen – Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

He ran a bit free in the Game Spirit at Newbury and carried a penalty, but was just a bit free and a bit fresh.

He’s a horse that if they go fast around there could run into a place.

I’m not expecting him to win but he deserves to take his place.

Hell Red – Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

Hell Red won very nicely at Chepstow at the start of the season and looked very promising on decent ground and then he went to Cheltenham on softer ground and after a mile he was choking.

He had a breathing problem, so he had a breathing operation and I had to get a run into him somewhere, so he went to Wincanton two weeks ago on very heavy ground.

He ran OK, he needed the run, and when I saw he was 3-1 on in the morning I thought ‘I can’t believe this’ because I said in my Betfair column that he’d probably need the run.

He ran really tidily, and he got dropped 3lb for that which was a bonus actually.

He was 134 and is now 131 and he’s done a lot of graft since and still has got a lot of hard work.

If the ground was good to soft that would be perfect for him and he’s definitely there with a chance, he’ll improve a lot on Wincanton.

Hitman – Marsh Novices’ Chase

Hitman is an interesting one. I wanted to run him last Saturday at Kempton but couldn’t because of the ground.

He’s also entered at Newbury this weekend and again the ground is an issue.

In the back of my mind is the fact that in a perfect world I’d probably run him at the weekend and then go to Aintree for the two and a half mile novices’ chase there, but if I miss this weekend for whatever reason, I could be tempted to have a look at this.

I think it could cut up a bit with Envoi Allen and people might dodge him – so Hitman is still a possible in my mind, depending on whether we go on Saturday or not.

Houx Gris – Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

Houx Gris was third in a Grade 1 (on his stable debut) and ran very well in very heavy ground.

He won at Auteuil the time before that and although Auteuil was given as heavy ground that day – which they always do – it wasn’t that bad.

He galloped nicely this morning, and I’d say he’s got a nice chance, he’s a lovely horse.

Magic Saint – Paddy Power Plate

Saint Sonnet is going to go over hurdles. My Way won’t get in the race and Doctor Sanderson is probably the same so I’d imagine that if we were going to run anything it would be Magic Saint.

He looks as though he’s crying out for a trip.

He ran in the Game Spirit the other day and was a bit one-paced over the last, so he probably wants a longer trip, so if I did run one it would probably be him.

Next Destination – National Hunt Chase and Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase

We’ll talk about the National Hunt Challenge Cup. He’s also in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, which is a race we really want to run him in and if it’s soft we’ll run him in that.

But we just put him in this race because he obviously stays very strongly.

He’s a novice, obviously another plus is that Harry (Cobden) can ride him now and we’ll probably confirm him at the five-day stage for both races and make a plan.

It’s almost certain that if it’s soft he’ll run in the Brown Advisory, but this is an option.

Politologue – Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

I love this race.

It’s a fantastic race and I’ve been very lucky to have some fantastic horses win it.

Politologue winning last year was fantastic for him and for everybody connected with the horse and this year is his sixth Festival, which is amazing.

If you could see him gallop this morning, he was very impressive, he comes good at this time of year and he’s in there with a chance.

I think it was a good run (at Ascot). The ground was probably testing enough for him that day, he’s slightly better on spring ground and it might be that Cheltenham just suits him very well.

He’s a horse who gives his all, there were no excuses and he was beaten by a better horse on the day.

He still ran to a very high level, which he will do in this race, and you know he’s solid, he’ll go a nice gallop and will give you a nice run for your money.

Obviously, Willie’s horse (Chacun Pour Soi) looks very smart, but he’s not run at Cheltenham before and he’s got to act on the track.

I don’t doubt that if he does do he’ll be hard to beat, but you should never be afraid of one and we’re going into it – being realistic – with a nice chance, but it’ll be hard.

Whatever happens, Harry Cobden rides Politologue and Bryony Frost will ride Greaneteen.

Rainyday Woman – Weatherbys Champion Bumper

Rainyday Woman is a very smart filly who won a listed race at Huntingdon the other day.

She’s two from two this year and she’s intended to go to Sandown next weekend, where there’s a very good mares’ race, but I thought I better have her in this in case something goes wrong or the ground is too quick at Sandown.

Real Steel – Ryanair Chase

He ran very well in last year’s Gold Cup. Obviously, they didn’t go a great gallop and he travelled into it and looked like he might win going to the last, but didn’t stay up the hill.

He’s not a stayer and I think this trip is right for him.

He worked beautifully this morning when we took him away (to Wincanton), which was a really good sign and he looks good in his coat at the moment.

He ran in the King George at Christmas and if you watch the race, he jumped the last down the back going really well and travelled into the straight looking like he was going to be involved and then stopped.

It transpired that he bled, which has been a bit frustrating, but we’ve got him over that and he looks good.

We’ve changed our routine with him and we’ve got him right he would go into the race with a chance.

Saint Sonnet – Coral Cup

He’s been a little disappointing over fences and hasn’t jumped his fences as well as we’d have liked.

He probably got stuck in really soft ground and he worked great this morning.

He’s rated 143 I think over hurdles and he’s a classy horse, so that might just be his race.

Some of the others might not get in and with Eglantine Du Seuil we’ll be going for this or the mares’ race if we run her at all.

Shantou Flyer – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase

Shantou Flyer is a nice old horse.

He was going to run in some hunter chases with David Maxwell, but because of what’s happened with Covid we’ve qualified him for the Kim Muir.

He’ll be ridden by either Harry Cobden or Angus Cheleda, who rode him the last day.

I was a bit disappointed to be honest with the handicapper – I spoke to him about it last week.

He’s 11-years-old, he’s run twice for this yard off 136 and got beat both times with a claimer riding him and the last time he ran he got put up 5lb.

I actually said, ‘I thought that was unrealistic as you’ve got to give horses a chance – he’s 11, why did you put him up 5lb when he can’t win off 136?’

He said he’d have a look at it and has dropped him 1lb.

To be honest with you that’s taking the mick and I was a bit disappointed with that.

If he can’t win off 136 he can’t win off 140, so he has it all to do off that mark.

Shearer – Weatherbys Champion Bumper

Shearer is an intended runner.

He’s a very nice horse and just got beat on his debut at Hereford and then he won well at Warwick on ground that was far too testing for him.

He’s had a nice break, has improved and definitely deserves to take his chance.

I think he was named after Alan Shearer.

Alan is well aware of the horse’s name and has followed him. Max (McNeill) who owns him wanted to call him Shearer.

Soldier Of Love – Ultima Handicap Chase and National Hunt Chase

He worked this morning and the key to him is good ground. I’ve been talking to Simon (Claisse) just now and he says that the ground is good to soft just now which is where he wants it to be.

There is rain forecast next week, and it won’t take too much to go back to being soft, so if it’s soft he’s unlikely to run.

He’s a horse who’s more likely to take his chance in the spring on better ground, but we just thought it was prudent to enter him in case we had a dry spring and he’s 50-50 to run in either race.

Southfield Harvest – Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle

He’s a real strong stayer and he ran well at Newbury the other day.

I was a bit disappointed he went up 3lb for being beaten, which I thought was a bit harsh, but Cheltenham will suit him – preferably a good gallop, and the slower ground the better for him.

Storm Arising – Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle

Storm Arising just keeps on improving.

He won at Lingfield and then he sort of pulled himself up a little bit when second at Sandown and then he won very well at Chepstow the other day.

He likes soft ground, we’ve kept him fresh and Bryony (Frost) will ride him, while Harry (Cobden) will ride Southfield Harvest.

Both have chances in a very competitive race.

Stratagem – Marsh Novices’ Chase

I think for Stratagem this will probably come a bit too soon for him.

He’s going to go for a valuable novices’ handicap at Sandown on the Saturday before Cheltenham.

Thyme White – McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle

He ran a really tidy race in the Betfair the other day and coming to the last he looked dangerous.

He hadn’t run for a long time and he obviously needed the run but he has obviously sharpened up a lot for that.

If it was a nice dry week and it was goodish ground on the last day that would suit him well. He could run well.

The key to him, like when he won at Musselburgh last year, is that he loves good ground.

My view was always to get a run into him at Newbury, run him in this if the ground was OK, if it was soft we might think twice about it.

He will definitely be heading up to Ayr for the Scottish Champion Hurdle. That would be a good race for him.

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