Paul Nicholls is looking to win at Kempton on Boxing Day and wrestle back the Irish dominance
Paul Nicholls is aiming to win the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and reclaim Ireland’s dominance in the jump race… the 60-year-old is still getting “as much excitement” as he ever has from the sport
- Paul Nicholls hopes to win despite the competition at Boxing Day in Kempton
- Nicholls hopes he can reclaim Ireland’s dominance in jump racing
- Despite being 60 years old, Nicholls still gets “as much excitement” as ever when he wins
- Bravemansgame is his best chance of winning at Kempton, according to Nicholls
Paul Nicholls starting a challenge for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on Boxing Day in Kempton is nothing new. He has won the heart of the Christmas racing program a remarkable 12 times.
But if the 13-time champion trainer can win it again with one of his three runners – Hitman, Frodon and Bravemansgame – there will be added satisfaction as it comes on the 30th anniversary of his first-ever Grade One win.
Since then there have been 138 top-level victories, but it was the victory of the See More Indians, ridden by Graham Bradley, in the Feltham Novices’ Chase, wearing the colors of Paul Barber, the man who appointed him to run from his base in the village Somerset coaching from Ditcheat got the ball rolling.
Paul Nicholls hopes Bravemansgame (pictured) has a good chance of winning at Kempton
Nicholls recalled the interview that could have changed racing history had he been wrong.
He said: “I can remember the day See More Indians won like it was yesterday. I started training in 1991 and he was one of the first horses that got us going.
“I never thought then that we would achieve what we have. I know other people who have applied to Paul for the job, but I must have impressed him. I always remember that one of the last things he asked me was “Do you play golf?” I was like ‘Sh*t, what am I saying here? Is he a great golfer?’.
“Then I thought, daddy always taught me to tell the truth, so I said, ‘No, I hate golf. I don’t have time to play and train racehorses.” He replied that’s what I wanted to hear. I might have ended it there and then if I had said yes.’
Barber owned four of Nicholls’ 12 King George winners, won the race twice with See More Business and twice with Clan Des Obeaux, which he co-owns with Ged Mason and former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
Nicholls’ appetite, now 60, is undiminished. He is determined to reverse the Irish show jumping dominance and one day find a horse as good as Kauto Star, whom he has coached to a record five King Georges.
“I get so much excitement and satisfaction like I’ve never had before”: Nicholls still loves the feeling of winning
He said: “We have a lot of young horses coming through and rebuilding, we’re not slowing down! I get so much excitement and satisfaction like never before.
“It’s 24/7, you never stop, but it’s like Sir Alex winning all these Premier Leagues and European Cups – it’s in you, you want to do it. In the minute that goes by you want to pack but I can’t imagine you ever will.’
Inevitably, all Nicholls King George winners are measured against Kauto Star, whose name is now associated with the race.
Nicholls added: “He was absolutely exceptional. He would work with Master Minded, who was one of the best two-mile hunters of all time, and laugh at him, but have the ability to canter three and a half miles.
“I don’t think anything will ever compare to him and it would be hard to top his fifth King George win when he beat Long Run.
“He was 11 years old and I will never forget the excitement of the crowd before, during and after the race.”
‘I don’t think anything will ever compare to him’: Nicholls said of Kauto Star (pictured)
PAUL NICHOLLS ON HIS KING GEORGE HOPES
Bravemans game (13-8): “He probably deserves to be a favourite. This has been his goal since he won the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase over track and distance last year. He’s had great preparation and looks fantastic.”
Frodo (16-1): “Won the race two years ago and isn’t getting any younger. He almost needs a career best to win, but he’s as good as he’s ever been.”
Hitman (7-2): “He’s valued at four pounds more than Bravemansgame, which isn’t much. He is only six years old and has achieved a lot for a young horse. He’s going over three miles into the unknown but I think it’ll improve him.’
Nicholls believes Bravemansgame is his best shot at winning the King George on Boxing Day