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Paul Nicholls (horse racing)


Paul Nicholls (born 17 April 1962) is a British National Hunt horse trainer with stables at Ditcheat, Somerset. A relatively successful jump jockey, Nicholls has become the leading National Hunt trainer of his generation, finishing the 2007-2008 season with 155 winners and a record £4 million in prize money. To date, he has trained over 1500 winners, won four Cheltenham Gold Cups and has been crowned British jump racing Champion Trainer four times.

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Early career

The son of a policeman, Nicholls was educated at Marlwood School, Alveston before leaving at 16 to take up work in a local point-to-point yard. He turned conditional in 1982 under the tutelage of Josh Gifford before joining David Barons as stable jockey in 1984. It was with Barons that Nicholls was most closely associated during his riding career. The pair enjoyed numerous big race successes, including back-to-back wins in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury with Broadheath in 1986 and Playschool the following year. Playschool was subsequently made favourite for the 1988 Cheltenham Gold Cup but was pulled up before the 20th fence. Barons attributed Playschool's lacklustre performance to doping but his claims were never substantiated. Following an injury sustained in 1989, Nicholls retired from the saddle having ridden a respectable 133 winners during a seven year career.

Achievements

Nicholls took out his trainers' licence in 1991, having served a two year apprenticeship as assistant trainer to Barons. In response to an advert placed in the Sporting Life, Nicholls began his training operation at Manor Farm, Ditcheat, in stables rented from local dairy farmer Paul Barber. Starting with just 8 horses, his first winner soon followed, the appropriately named Olveston, owned by Nicholls' father and named after the South Gloucestershire village in which he was raised. A steady climb up the training ladder followed, with Nicholls' first grade one success coming with See More Indians in the Feltham Novices' Chase at Kempton in 1993. However, it was the 1999 Cheltenham festival that saw Nicholls' breakthrough into jump racing's elite, winning three of the most prestigious steeplechases in National Hunt racing. Nicholls enjoyed a memorable meeting, collecting the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Call Equiname, the Arkle Chase with Flagship Uberalles and the Gold Cup with See More Business. However, it was not until the end of the 2005-06 season that Nicholls was finally crowned Champion Trainer for the first time, his eventual coronation coming after a long struggle for supremacy with multiple champion Martin Pipe.

The appointment of the great Irish rider Ruby Walsh as stable jockey has undoubtedly strengthened Nicholls' hand in the big races. Their major successes include the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Azertyuiop (2004) and Master Minded (2008 and 2009), consecutive wins in the King George VI Chase with Kauto Star (2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009) and the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Kauto Star in 2007 and 2009. Walsh rode two more Nicholls trained horses, Big Buck's and American Trilogy, to respective wins in the World Hurdle and Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival. Denman (horse) won the 2007 and 2009 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury Racecourse. Nicholls' finest hour came in the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup where he saddled the first three horses home: in finishing order, Denman (ridden by Sam Thomas), Kauto Star and Neptune Collonges. Despite his achievements at Cheltenham, the Aintree Grand National remains the only major British staying chase to elude Nicholls. In recent years, Nicholls' dominance has extended across the Irish Sea and his horses have plundered Ireland's most valuable jumping prizes with increasing regularity. Some commentators have speculated that Nicholls is attempting to become British and Irish champion trainer simultaneously, although Nicholls has denied this, telling the Irish Times "It'll never happen. I'm not chasing it and I was misquoted about chasing it". [1]

Nicholls is renowned for being approachable and media-friendly. He writes a popular column on Saturdays in the Racing Post and his frank and honest opinions are well respected by members of the racing public. His hegemony over British jump racing looks sure to continue for years to come, despite fierce competition from the powerful Nicky Henderson and Alan King stables. In December 2008, Nicholls trained his 50th grade one winner when Master Minded (ridden by AP McCoy) won the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.

Personal life

Away from racing, Nicholls has a keen interest in horticulture, particularly rose growing. He is also an avid supporter of Manchester United, whose manager Sir Alex Ferguson has several horses in training with Nicholls.

In November 2009, Nicholls starred alongside Kauto Star in a short film to promote Somerset, commissioned by inward investment agency Into Somerset.[1]

References



See also



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