Paul Nicholls: The exclusive verdict on my three Cheltenham runners

Paul Nicholls runs Old Guard at Cheltenham on Monday
Paul Nicholls runs Old Guard at Cheltenham on Monday
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Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls is ringing in the New Year with three runners at Cheltenham including course winner Old Guard...

"In the past Old Guard didn’t enjoy racing in testing conditions but he seems to handle them much better since the op and I am expecting another big run from him."

12:50 Cheltenham - Southfield Theatre

Has been struggling in the grip of the handicapper for a while but ran much better at Cheltenham a couple of weeks ago wearing blinkers for the first time. He was a bit free that day and was involved the whole way until keeping on to be third to Robinsfirth.

Southfield Theatre sustained a life threatening injury when a close second to Don Poli in the RSA Chase in March 2015 and has never quite managed to show the same form since. While I doubt he wants the ground as deep as it is going to be at Cheltenham, he has been dropped four pounds after his last run, this race has cut up badly and he would have a chance if the blinkers work again.

14:00 Cheltenham - Sametegal

A handsome, talented horse who has run really well on both starts this season on his comeback from a tendon injury that put him on the sidelines for twelve months. He beat all but Guitar Pete at Wetherby and was probably attempting the impossible in conceding twenty pounds to the winner.

Guitar Pete then well and truly franked the form by landing the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham from Clan Des Obeaux. Sametegal also finished strongly at Aintree to take third place in the Grand Sefton which encouraged me to give him an entry in the Grand National. He continues to please at home and should be in the money again if he copes with heavy ground.

15:10 Cheltenham - Old Guard

Missed his engagement in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day as he was one of several of ours who were off their feed for a day or two.

Old Guard is fine now, didn't miss any work and will be well suited by this trip of two and a half miles at a track that plays to his strengths. I am thrilled by the way he has bounced back this season after an op in the summer to help his wind.

In the past Old Guard didn't enjoy racing in testing conditions but he seems to handle them much better since the op and I am expecting another big run from him. He will be partnered by Bryony Frost as a reward for her outstanding ride on Black Corton at Kempton on Boxing Day.

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