Paul Nicholls reflected on another memorable Saturday after saddling seven winners across the three jump meetings in Britain.
Fixtures at Chepstow, Kempton and Wincanton were in doubt at the start of the morning following the recent cold snap, but Nicholls will have been relieved to see all three go ahead, allowing him to send out 18 runners in total from his Ditcheat base.
Nicholls was at Kempton, where he saw Barbados Buck’s (2-1 favourite) land a novice hurdle, before claiming Grade Two honours with both McFabulous (10-11 favourite) in the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle and Master Tommytucker (2-1) in the Ladbrokes Silviniaco Conti Chase.
All three Kempton winners were partnered by Harry Cobden.
On Coral Welsh Grand National day at Chepstow, Bryony Frost was seen to excellent effect aboard the Nicholls-trained Pozo Emery (7-2) in the opening maiden hurdle, before doubling her tally for the 11-times champion trainer with Storm Arising (6-1) in a handicap hurdle.
Nicholls also claimed a double at his local track of Wincanton, with Harry Skelton steering Flash Collonges (7-4) to success in a novice hurdle and Capeland (6-1) striking gold under Daryl Jacob, who enjoyed a five-timer on the card.
Speaking after the conclusion of racing at Kempton, Nicholls said: “We hadn’t had a winner in 2021 and now we’ve had seven in one day!
“We hadn’t had many runners so far this year, before today. It’s good to keep the strike-rate going.
“If you run 18, you would like to think four of them would win and we’ve had seven, so we are chuffed. If they are fit, healthy and well, you want them to perform well.
“All of these that have run today will have a flu jab on Monday and won’t run for three weeks to a month. We are never that busy in January. We still have a few to run, but we will be selective.
“The team will be readied and revved up to run from February through into March and April.”
Assessing some of his winners, he added: “I thought McFabulous ought to win and I was sweet on Master Tommytucker. I know he was lucky with the favourite (Imperial Aura) coming down, but our horse is a nice horse when he is right.
“We’d had three lovely novice hurdlers win in Pozo Emery, Flash Collonges and Barbados Buck’s and they are for the future. Whatever they achieve over hurdles is a bonus as they will all be great chasers.
“It is exciting times. We have a great team working behind the scenes at home and a great team of patient owners.”
Nicholls usually enjoys some winter sun in the Caribbean early in the new year, but those plans have gone by the wayside this season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “Normally I’m away for a couple of weeks, but obviously we can’t go this year. I’d rather be here than watching the racing on television, though.
“I’d usually have gone to Barbados on Wednesday and I’m always there this weekend watching it with Andy Stewart over one or two glasses of champagne! He’s had two winners today with Barbados Buck’s and Pozo Emery, so it would have been riotous!
“With everything that’s going on in the country, I’d have been mortified if I was out there and there was a problem back home and I couldn’t get back, so I’m better off at home making sure we all keep safe and everyone keeps on top of things.
“This is a lovely start to the new year. If we can keep going until the end of the season, we ought be able to crack the 172 (171 is the record number of winners in a season for Nicholls).
“Although me and Clifford (Baker, head lad) might be 58 and 60, we are still as enthusiastic as ever and we absolutely love it – long may it continue.”