Nicholls favouring Aintree date for Hitman

Paul Nicholls reports Hitman to be none the worse after falling in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown on Saturday.

Hugely impressive on his British debut at Ffos Las in November, the French recruit subsequently chased home Dan Skelton’s Allmankind when stepped up to Grade One level for the first time in Sandown’s Henry VIII Novices’ Chase the following month.

The five-year-old returned to the Esher venue for another top-level assignment last weekend – and was still travelling strongly when coming to grief at the first of the Railway Fences.

Speaking on a call hosted by Great British Racing, Nicholls said: “It was very frustrating – I don’t think I’ve seen Harry (Cobden, jockey) that frustrated after a race for a long time.

“He was travelling extremely well and jumped impeccably. He was just a bit unlucky he landed a little bit steep.

“He’s come out of the race fine and we’ve just got to make a plan as to what we’re going to do with him going forward.”

Hitman holds entries in the Arkle Trophy and the Marsh Novices’ Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival, but could sidestep the showpiece meeting in the Cotswolds entirely.

Nicholls added: “I wouldn’t mind saving him for Aintree. He’s a horse who doesn’t want a lot of racing this year. He’s only just turned five and he’s going to improve physically for another summer.

“You wouldn’t do Cheltenham and Aintree and Cheltenham might come a bit quick off the back of a fall.

“I wouldn’t mind getting a clear round in somewhere on a small track and then go to Aintree.”

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