Champion trainer Paul Nicholls ready to start season
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls is readying his stables for the new National Hunt season, which gets under way at Chepstow today.
The Ditcheat trainer, who secured his seventh straight trainers' crown last term with a maiden victory in the Grand National thanks to Neptunes Collonges' memorable triumph, schooled his yard on grass earlier this week ahead of the first meeting of the campaign.
"Schooling on grass for the first time this season and Chepstow on Saturday. Jumping is back. #bring it on," Nicholls posted on Twitter.
Nicholls' early-season prospects rest with Hinterland in the Get Straight to the Bet at bluesq.com Hurdle, with Ruby Walsh taking the reins in the two-mile 110-yard race.
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The four-year-old had been expected to move up to chasing but will stay over hurdles in the early part of the season.
"We had hoped to run him in a novice chase at the same meeting but, unbelievably, our schooling grounds have been a bit firm, so we haven't been able to school them much," Nicholls told At The Races last week.
"With him having a fall on his last run, I wouldn't want to send him over fences not having done enough schooling. He'll probably run over hurdles and then go chasing."
The main focus at Nicholls' yard remains the fate of Kauto Star, with still no announcement on whether or not the two-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner will be retired.
The 12-year-old secured a fifth King George VI crown at Kempton on Boxing Day last year but was pulled up during the Gold Cup in March after suffering a fall in schooling during the build up to the race.
"He's fine but there's been no decision yet," said owner Clive Smith last week.
"I've actually been away a bit, so I'll talk to Paul and hopefully get somewhere pretty soon.
"He's just been cantering up the hill and is gradually getting fitter. If he is going to run again, then it won't be for three months, so there is no great rush.
"He's looking good and it's a long-term thing having spent the summer in the field.
"Hopefully we'll have a good idea of where we are in the next couple of weeks."