The official start of the National Hunt season is just around the corner so we headed down to Ditcheat to get the lowdown from Paul Nicholls on his team for the new campaign. Check out our series of exclusive videos...
Like his good friend Sir Alex Ferguson, Paul has always felt the need to turn over a percentage of his team each summer. Every horse that comes to Ditcheat is bought with chasing in mind in the long term. Many of his latest three-year-old recruits have been bought from France. They include the highly-rated Zubayr, purchased at the Arqana Sales, Winterhawk and Copain De Classe.
All Paul's novice hurdlers will have had plenty of jumping practice in his outdoor arena and on the grass schooling grounds before they set foot on the racecourse. Names to note include the smart bumper horse Modus, now owned by JP McManus, the French bumper winner Brave Jaq and Politologue.
Once again Paul appears to have a particularly strong team of horses starting a new career over fences in the coming months. None has more potential than Aux Ptits Soins who won the fiercely competitive Coral Cup at Cheltenham on his only start for the yard last season. Other novices to quicken the trainer's pulse include Le Mercurey, Silsol and Emerging Talent.
With Paul's hardy veteran hurdler Zarkandar missing until the New Year with a minor injury he will be looking to his best novices from last season to progress over hurdles. The Grade 1 Aintree winner All Yours is pencilled in for the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton early in November while hopes are high that Qualando and Bouvreuil can step up to the mark. Zarkandar should be back in time for another crack at the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
Paul Nicholls has a record second to none at keeping his best chasers in peak form for season after season. Silviniaco Conti is an admirable example as he prepares to try for a third consecutive victory in the King George V1 Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. Dodging Bullets' relentless improvement last season ended with a superb victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase while the sky is the limit for the precociously talented Saphir Du Rheu.
Paul will be back in early October with a full season preview and his weekly runners column will return on October 9