2019/20 National Hunt horses to follow – Five Paul Nicholls’ horses to follow
Our expert takes a look through Paul Nicholls’ yard and highlights five horses who are well worth tracking during the 2019/20 National Hunt season.
For a number of years, a lack of genuine Grade One horses within his Ditcheat barracks prevented Paul Nicholls from really challenging Nicky Henderson in the race to be Champion Trainer. In a bid to address that balance, Nicholls invested heavily in up-and-coming talent at the start of last season and this tactic, along with some huge wins for top-class chasers, did the trick in the title race.
135 winners and almost £3.5m in prize money helped the Ditcheat maestro fend off the advances of his old adversary, Nicky Henderson and claim an eleventh Champion Trainer title. Nicholls’ squad was led superbly by King George winner Clan Des Obeaux, RSA hero Topofthegame and cult-hero Frodon, who stormed to victory in the Ryanair Chase under a superb ride by the brilliant Bryony Frost.
Sadly, one of Nicholls’ stars of last season will not be seen during 2019/20. Topofthegame – one of my most successful tracker horses last term – picked up an injury on his return to training and Nicholls has ruled him out for the entire campaign.
Luckily, Britain’s Champion Trainer boasts a boat-load of talented youngsters itching to fill that void. Here are five horses from Paul Nicholls’ yard you should add to your tracker this season.
Paul Nicholls’ Horses To Follow
A campaign which started with so much promise threatened to tail off at the start of the New Year. Getaway Trump, who had topped the betting for the Betfair Hurdle, had to settle for fourth in the rescheduled race at Ascot and Paul Nicholls will have been dismayed with the showing his charge put in at Kelso a couple of weeks later, where Getaway Trump was comprehensively beaten as the odds-on favourite in the Grade Two Novices’ Hurdle.
No-one wanted to side with Nicholls’ charge as he squared off with Gordon Elliott’s Galvin at Ayr. Yet, Getaway Trump returned to top form with an excellent six-length victory, a performance he built on at Sandown two weeks later, carrying top-weight to victory in the Novices’ Championship Finale.
Getaway Trump ends his novice hurdling campaign rated 155 and I’d be surprised if he didn’t progress beyond that mark when he sets out as a novice chaser. Although he ended the season over two miles, I wouldn’t be surprised if he progressed up to two-and-a-half over fences and the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham looks a realistic goal.
Few second-season juveniles show the same improvement and consistency that Grand Sancy displayed during 2018/19. Nicholls got this imposing youngster out nice and early in the season, winning a handicap, a novice event and the Listed Newton Novices’ Hurdle by the end of the autumn.
Grand Sancy took his chance in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, where only Elixir De Nutz was strong enough to beat him. Nicholls’ youngster then caused an upset at Wincanton in February, beating the highly-rated Sceau Royal to win the Kingwell Hurdle. Grand Sancy then disappointed slightly in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but that was his eighth outing of a long, hard campaign and he can be forgiven a tired display on unsuitably soft ground.
The first half of the season could be Grand Sancy’s time to shine, as he embarks on a new stage of his career over fences. Genuinely good ground seems to be key to his chances of success and, given favourable underfoot conditions, he could claim multiple Graded honours over the larger obstacles.
This strong-looking son of Milan made a nice impression on his stable debut last autumn, powering home impressively to beat Ask Dillon and future Graded winner, Lisnagar Oscar in a flat race at Chepstow. McFabulous couldn’t follow-up at Cheltenham the following month, finishing down the field in the Listed bumper during the International Meeting and Nicholls’ decided to rough his youngster off until the spring.
McFabulous returned with a bang at Newbury in March, comfortably beating a very talented horse of Colin Tizzard’s by six lengths. Harry Cobden’s mount was then backed into short-priced favouritism for the Grade Two bumper at Aintree and the favourite didn’t disappoint, holding off Thebannerkingrebel to secure an important win.
Nicholls is very fond of this five-year-old and there’s no doubting he’s built to succeed over hurdles. I’m not surprised to see McFabulous sitting so prominently in the betting for next year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Nicholls and his team were very busy at the various sales events last season and here are a couple of eye-catching purchases who you will likely find in bumpers during 2019/20.
Bravemansgame was snapped up by Nicholls’ at the Cheltenham sale in March, just days after scoring a comfortable victory between the flags. There not much to read when you look through his lineage, but the fact Nicholls splashed out £380k tells you the team were extremely taken with that point-to-point triumph.
Cill Anna cost just a third of what team Ditcheat paid for her new stablemate, but her debut victory for top point-to-point trainer, Colin Bowe was equally as impressive. Nicholls has an excellent track record training young mare’s and this four-year-old – who’s closely related to both Galileo and Oscar – will certainly be worth watching closely when she makes her stable debut.