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Paul Nicholls Season Review: It's been a great year but we lack Grade 1 horses at Ditcheat

`A busy summer looms for Paul and the team at Ditcheat
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With the 2016-17 National Hunt season over Paul reflects on a campaign which yielded a stunning 171 winners but just failed to land another Trainers' Championship...

"One thing I will keep on doing is train loads of winners and pick up prize money wherever I can. In the season just ended, for instance, we had 49 more winners than in 2015-2016, when I was champion for the tenth time. But realistically it is going to be difficult again this season as we are very short of options in the big races that matter while we look for some of our brighter prospects to make the breakthrough."

We ended the season at Sandown on April 22 with 171 winners, which was by some way the best total we've achieved.

In many ways we had an amazing campaign but it wasn't quite enough to retain the trainers' title.

Grade 1 horses tend to decide championships and we have been badly short of firepower at the highest level over the past couple of years.

Top marks to Nicky Henderson who thoroughly deserved his fourth title after an outstanding run of success in Grade 1 races with horses like Might Bite, Buveur d'Air and Altior.

Nicky is a good mate and a great competitor and was firmly in the box seat after such a brilliant Cheltenham Festival. It was always going to be incredibly tough to catch him from that point even though Vicente's tremendous second victory in the Scottish National briefly gave us fresh hope.

I was one of the first to congratulate Nicky at Sandown after the triumph of Altior put the result beyond doubt.

In my book Nicky should be odds-on favourite to be champion once more this season as he has plenty of aces while we are again short of stars.

Colin Tizzard, too, has to be a serious contender with so many exciting horses in his yard.

If you look at the statistics you will see that I have been first or second in the trainers' table in 19 of the past 20 years.

In addition our horses have collected in excess of £2 million for their owners for each of the past 15 years.

I remain as ambitious as ever and will be doing my best to wrestle the crown back from Nicky by maximising what I have at my disposal.

I'll be busy over the coming months buying and selling horses, looking to upgrade the quality of the team and improving the facilities at the same time.

One thing I will keep on doing is train loads of winners and pick up prize money wherever I can.

In the season just ended, for instance, we had 49 more winners than in 2015-2016, when I was champion for the tenth time.

But realistically it is going to be difficult again this season as we are very short of options in the big races that matter while we look for some of our brighter prospects to make the breakthrough.

Hopefully I have some really nice young novices going chasing and though I'll be having a few runners over the summer we never really get going until October.

Frankly I can't wait for the horses to hit their stride then with the help of a top team at the yard and some outstanding jockeys.

But for missing two months with a damaged spleen Sam Twiston-Davies could have run Richard Johnson close for the jockeys' championship and I was delighted to see Harry Cobden emulate Sean Bowen by landing the conditional title.

Although we drew a blank on the final day of the season I thought Ptit Zig ran a blinder in finishing second to L'Ami Serge in the Select Hurdle, giving him 8lbs.

The handicapper was sufficiently impressed to raise him to a new high mark of 158 though handicaps are surely out for him now.

That fine performance at Sandown should put Ptit Zig bang on course in his bid to win the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil in June for the second consecutive year.

One who will be missing for the first part of the season is Saphir Du Rheu who sprained a suspensory when he fell in the Grand National. All being well he should be back in training by Christmas.

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