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Page last updated at 12:32 GMT, Thursday, 19 February 2009

Nicholls targets Festival success


Nicholls will be fielding a team of about 30 horses

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls is confident of repeating last year's success at the Cheltenham Festival.

"We've got a great team of horses to run again and if they stay fit we'll be in with some great chances," Somerset-based Nicholls told BBC Points West.

Runaway Gold Cup winner Denman led home a Nicholls 1-2-3 in the Festival's Gold Cup ahead of stablemates Kauto Star and Neptune Collonges.

Kauto Star, ridden by Ruby Walsh, is favourite for this year's renewal.

Nicholls boasts another four possibles in the big race in Big Buck's, My Will, Nozic and Star De Mohaison.

But despite Denman's poor showing on his recent return to action following a heart abnormality, Nicholls says it is difficult to predict how the defending champion will show at Prestbury Park and it is too early to write him off.

"Denman was slightly disappointing at Kempton," he said. "But he's improved since then and is in good order.

"He's not a flashy horse and is quite lazy in his work. Until he turns up at the Cheltenham Gold Cup none of us are really going to know how much he's improved.

"But Kauto's favourite and is in good form. We're not running him as much, he's fresh and is right in there."

Despite the huge weight of expectation following his recent years of success, the Somerset-based trainer has not lost any of his appetite, particularly with the Festival on the horizon.

He will take a stable of 30 horses to the four-day meeting from 10-13 March and is hopeful of picking up yet more winners.

"It's hard to explain to everyone what Cheltenham means, but it's a great four days and great to be getting there and involved in it," he said.

"Master Minded is defending the Champion Chase and he looks like he'll be hard to beat.

"And Poquelin in the Grand Annual on the last day could be a good each-way. He's not one of the leading lights but could run well in that."

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see also
Nicholls ready for Festival return
20 Feb 09 |  Horse Racing
Nicholls reveals Gold Cup jockeys
18 Feb 09 |  Horse Racing
Neptune can win Gold Cup - Hales
13 Feb 09 |  Horse Racing
Nicholls pair head Gold Cup list
11 Feb 09 |  Horse Racing
Strong field for Champion Hurdle
11 Feb 09 |  Horse Racing
Master Minded heads Chase field
11 Feb 09 |  Horse Racing
Denman outpaced in comeback race
07 Feb 09 |  Horse Racing
Kauto secures King George treble
26 Dec 08 |  Horse Racing
Denman storms to Gold Cup victory
14 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing

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