Paul Nicholls Exclusive: An update on my Cheltenham Festival running plans

Paul Nicholls outlines his plans for the Cheltenham Festival
Paul Nicholls outlines his plans for the Cheltenham Festival
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With less than three weeks to go before the start of the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls reveals his latest running plans - including all his intended runners in the feature races...

"Obviously, Silviniaco Conti is our main hope in the Gold Cup but Rocky Creek will take his chance, as will Unioniste if it comes up testing."

We are still a fair way from finalising our plans for Cheltenham - obviously, until we know the weights and have a clearer picture of what the ground will be, our handicap entries in particular are up in the air - but I thought it would be a good idea to run you through my current Festival thinking.

Obviously, Irving is our main hope in the Supreme and hopefully he will confirm his position in the opening race of the Festival with a good run in the Dovecote at Kempton tomorrow. I also have Fascino Rustico and Lac Fontana in here, but the latter has multiple entries and at the moment I am slightly favouring the County Hurdle for him.

Dodging Bullets and Hinterland are my two for the Arkle, though I would really like the ground to dry up for Hinterland who has an outside chance of running in the Champion Chase if that race did cut up badly, but that is unlikely.

Ideally, I would want testing ground for my Champion Hurdle entry Ptit Zig, who I didn't think was at his best when failing by 4 ½ lengths to give Melodic Rendezvous 4lb at Haydock last time. But the meeting will start on the easy side on Tuesday, and there will be a small field, so he will probably take his chance before we put him away for the season.

I could run Just A Par in the National Hunt Chase if it was good ground, or perhaps Black Thunder if it was soft. And while I won't have a runner in the Mares' Hurdle, I could have Dark Lover in the novices' handicap chase but he wouldn't be eligible were he to win the Pendil at Kempton tomorrow.

On Wednesday, I won't have a runner in the Neptune - though Lac Fontana is currently entered - but Sam Winner is likely to be our sole representative in the RSA Chase, though Just A Par, Black Thunder and Wonderful Charm are still in the race. It is all ground-dependent, though, and no plans are set in stone.

As I said earlier, there is a very small chance that Hinterland could run in the Champion Chase were the ground to dry out and the race to cut up, but Sire Collonges is a definite in the Cross Country Chase.

I have about nine in the Coral Cup, and I think I have four or so in the Fred Winter, including Keltus, recent French purchase Katgary, weekend Wincanton winner Aldopicgros, and Solar Impulse, who runs at Kempton tomorrow.

If I am going to have a runner in the Champion Bumper then it will be this week's Southwell winner Great Try, though that looks pretty unlikely at the moment.

Wonderful Charm is clearly our main hope in the JLT, and he could be our only runner if I decide to go with Caid Du Berlais in the Martin Pipe boys' race.

I have Southfield Theatre for the Pertemps, and Al Ferof for the Ryanair, though he is still in the Champion Chase, too. I strongly suspect Al Ferof will go for the 2m5f race though, even if it comes up heavy. But we will see.

I have There's No Panic pencilled in for the Kim Muir, and all four of mine - Big Buck's, Celestial Halo, Salubrious and Zarkandar - are set to run in the World Hurdle. At this stage there are no plans to run Saphir Du Rheu, who goes to Fontwell on Sunday, at Cheltenham.

I am likely to be represented by only Calipto in the Triumph unless Alcala wins the Adonis at Kempton tomorrow, and I have about eight or nine in the County Hurdle, probably headed up by Lac Fontana and Vibrato Valtat.

I won't have a runner in the Foxhunters' but Port Melon could go in the Albert Bartlett, and I have five or so in the Martin Pipe.

As for the Grand Annual, my main hopes at the moment are probably Mr Mole and Shooters Wood, and I have three in the big one.

Obviously, Silviniaco Conti is our main hope in the Gold Cup but Rocky Creek will take his chance, as will Unioniste if it comes up testing.

I hope that helps!

*please note, this article was first published on Friday February 21

Paul Nicholls Twitter Q&A

On Monday evening (February 24), @BetfairRacing will be hosting an exclusive Twitter Q&A with Paul. With Cheltenham just around the corner, it's sure to be an insightful session.

Get your questions in to the Betfair ambassador by tweeting @BetfairRacing using #AskPaulNicholls.

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