Paul Nicholls Exclusive: My running plans for Cheltenham and more

Paul reveals that he and Andy Stewart have agreed to put Saphir Du Rheu back over hurdles
Paul reveals that he and Andy Stewart have agreed to put Saphir Du Rheu back over hurdles
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It is a relatively quiet period for Ditcheat, so we asked Paul Nicholls for an update on his running plans for the next few weeks, including early thoughts on Cheltenham and news on Al Ferof, Calipto, Silviniaco Conti and Sam Winner...

"Unioniste and Rocky Creek are being given an entry in the Irish Hennessy – though one of the pair could go to the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury instead  -  while I can confirm that Silviniaco Conti and Sam Winner will go straight to Cheltenham."

As I said last week, it has been a quiet spell for us recently. But I'll settle for one runner and one winner most weeks  - Hawkes Point coming back to his best in first-time blinkers for us at Warwick last Saturday was good to see - and busier times are just around the corner.

Next Saturday, Easter Day is being aimed at the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster- or rather the Skybet Chase as it is now - and Sandown winner Black Thunder goes for the Argento Chase at Cheltenham, where Saphir Du Rheu's half-brother Ibis Du Rheu is set to make his debut for us in the juvenile hurdle after winning in France last April.

After chatting with Andy (Stewart), we have decided to put Saphir back over hurdles in the Cleeve, for as much as a confidence-booster after his mishap at Kempton as anything.

I was tempted to keep him over fences but, given the World Hurdle picture looks so open and he is rated 165 over hurdles, it seemed a sensible thing to do to switch back over hurdles.

The result of the Cleeve will tell us where we go next with him, either the World Hurdle or back over fences for the RSA.

Al Ferof probably goes to the Betfair Ascot Chase next month, and that should tell us what race we head to at Cheltenham. But, after speaking with John (Hales), the Champion Chase is our preferred option at the moment, though nothing is set in stone.

Mind you, Sprinter Sacre may make up our minds for us - either way - at Ascot on Saturday!

Other snippets of information that you may like to know include Unioniste and Rocky Creek being given an entry in the Irish Hennessy - though one of the pair could go to the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury instead  -  while I can confirm that Silviniaco Conti and Sam Winner will go straight to Cheltenham.

Calipto is very much on course for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury next month. He has had a breathing operation after choking at Cheltenham first time up in October - I said as much immediately after the race - and I think that he can be competitive off his mark. Newbury has been the long-term plan for him since Cheltenham.

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