That Friday Feeling – Paul Nicholls Bids for Opening Cheltenham Four-timer

Paul Nicholls is hoping that his form picks up before next month's Cheltenham Festival.Paul Nicholls is hoping that his form picks up before next month's Cheltenham Festival.

Paul Nicholls Hopes for Friday Four-timer at Cheltenham

Cheltenham returns this weekend and for the first time in over 18 months, a crowd will be there to soak in the atmosphere at the home of Jumps racing. One trainer who has enjoyed notable success at Cheltenham down the years has been Ditcheat-based Paul Nicholls, with last seasons Champion Trainer hoping to kick-off the 2021/22 Cheltenham campaign with a Friday four-timer. Check out our thoughts on his runners below.

FIDELIO VALLIS – (2:30pm, Novices’ Chase)

A useful recruit for the powerful Nicholls/Hales combination synonymous in recent years with Politologue, this son of Saint Des Saints has won exactly half of his 12 starts for these connections.

That fine strike-rate was helped by a spring 2021 chase four-timer, which culminated in a game Warwick handicap victory.

Reappeared with a creditable second at Chepstow earlier this month, and on that performance dropping back to 2m on a stiff track such as this should suit his prominent race style. Previous experience in this sphere is likely to put the jumping credentials of main market rivals Third Time Lucki and Any News to the test – and notable that he gets his ground.

GRACE A VOUS ENKI – (3:05pm, 888Sport What’s Your Thinking Novices’ Hurdle)

Had some useful form to his name in France for previous trainer Dominic Bressou, including a Grade 3 third at Auteuil last November.

Subsequently picked up for €125,000 by current connections, he was narrowly held when sent off the 8/11F for a novice hurdle at Worcester on stable debut earlier this month.

Slightly disappointing that he couldn’t get the job done that day, but the winner (Colorado Doc) is no slouch with a 134 chase rating to his name and the front two pulled a good way clear of the remainder there.

Entitled to come on for that first run in almost 12 months, and this stiffer test should suit a horse with such a stout staying pedigree (half-brother to Welsh Grand National placed Yala Enki).

DANNY KIRWAN – (3:40pm, 888Sport Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase)

Has some smart backform to his name which includes a second to the now 153-rated Angels Breath in Grade 2 company.

Struggled last Winter where the ground was probably a touch softer than ideal, when he appeared rejuvenated for the break, and switch to better conditions, when running out a dominant 14l winner at Wincanton when last seen back in March; clear career-best RPR.

Given wind surgery prior to making his seasonal/chase debut this afternoon, and he undoubtedly has the size and scope to make an impression in this sphere.

Current mark of 133 looks unlikely to prove the ceiling of his ability and therefore he must warrant serious respect on ground that suits.

SAINT SONNET – (4:15pm, Abu Dhabi Digital Exchange Handicap Hurdle)

Looked like a potential future top-notcher for this yard when mid-field in the 2020 Grade 1 Marsh Novices’ Chase here on just second stable start.

Didn’t kick on as expected last season, failing to complete in each of his first three runs, yet the switch to hurdles did at least see him finish races in the Coral Cup and at Ayr’s spring festival.

Reappears dropped down to Class 3 level with a relatively new headgear combination retained, and as a 6yo he still has the time to get his career back on track.