Cheltenham Trainers – The Big Three…

Henderson Nicholls

Who'll Be Top Festival Trainer?

With the Cheltenham Festival this week Andy Newton takes a look at the three big yards - the form they are heading into the four days of top-notch action, plus their Prestbury Park track stats......

PAUL NICHOLLS (14 winners from their last 35 runners, 40% strike-rate): With no Big Buck’s and the army that once consisted of the likes of Denman, Kauto Star and Master Minded then Nicholls is the clear third favourite of the trio to end the week as the top trainer. However, what he might lack in quality he’s certainly making up for with the form of his runners. He heads to Prestbury Park with the best current strike-rate (40%) and, therefore, at around 8/1 in the top trainer betting he does represent a bit of value. He’s got live chances on day one with Dodging Bullets and Zarkandar, while later in the week Unioniste, Ptit Zig, Saphir Du Rheu, Sam Winner, Far West Ulck Du Lin and Silviniaco Conti are others that will certainly have their supporters. Nicholls has been top handler now six times, and if he’s to make it seven to suspect he’ll need to get at least 4-5 winners to have a chance.

5 Year Cheltenham Figures (Festival and Non-Festival)
Runners: 408
Winners: 69
Chase Winners: 31 from 208 (15%)
Hurdles Winners: 35 from 187 (19%)
NH Flat Winners: 3 from 13 (23%)

Overall Record This Season

Runners: 437
Winners: 112

WILLIE MULLINS (5 winners from their last 32 runners, 16% strike-rate): Out of the three big yard then those backing the Willie Mullins horses might have a tiny bit of concern with just 5 winners from their last 32 sent to post. Yes, you could argue that their stable ‘big-guns’ have not been out and have been saved for this meeting, but it’s still a point worth making. Ruby has also only been on 6 of their last 32 runners – again telling another story. Plus, did you know they’ve only had 31 winners in the UK since the 1991-92 season? – that’s also from 355 runners, so a strike-rate of just 11%. That said, in their native land the Irish trainer is having a record season with 164 winners already on the board, and that’s 26 more than last season! 95 of those 164 winners have been with their hurdlers, while with 33 NH Flat winners from just 85 runners (39%) then things look good as they try an bag an eighth victory in the Champion Bumper on Wednesday. Champagne Fever, Hurricane Fly, Uncle Junior and Quevega could expel these slight form doubts with wins on the opening day, while Boston Bob, Back In Focus, Pont Alexandre, Aupcharlie, and, of course, Sir Des Champs, will be other big chances (to name just a few) as the week progresses. It’s also worth pointing out that Mullins has only been champion trainer at this meeting once (2011).

5 Year Cheltenham Figures (Festival and Non-Festival)
Runners: 126
Winners: 15
Chase Winners: 4 from 42 (10%)
Hurdles Winners: 10 from 67 (15%)
NH Flat Winners: 1 from 17 (6%)

Overall Record This Season (Irish Winners Only)

Runners: 486
Winners: 164

NICKY HENDERSON (6 winners from his last 22 runners, 27% strike-rate): Had a short-priced winner at Taunton on Monday, and have been ticking along nicely with their Close Touch a decent winner at Sandown last Saturday too. A bit like Ruby with the Mullins and Nicholls yards Barry Geragthy has been saving himself in recent weeks having only ridden 7 of their last 22 runners, but 3 of those were winners. With Sprinter Sacre, My Tent Or Yours and Simonsig all extremely well-fancied then if that trio go in Henderson will have a great chance of getting near the 7 winners he bagged to be top trainer last term. In all the Seven Barrows maestro has topped the trainers list at the festival 9 times, and is favourite to do so again. Grandouet, Hadrian’s Approach, Captain Conan, Riverside Theatre, Oscar Whisky, Rolling Star, Utopie Des Bordes, Long Run and, of course, Bobs Worth are other big names that you suspect will have their say too.

5 Year Cheltenham Figures (Festival and Non-Festival)

Runners: 339
Winners: 56
Chase Winners: 17 from 128 (13%)
Hurdles Winners: 35 from 193 (18%)
NH Flat Winners: 4 from 18 (22%)

Overall Record This Season

Runners: 378
Winners: 104

Note: All stats correct as 12th March 2013