Nicholls' Week Ahead: The Timeform Preview
Nicholls will have one eye on next week's Festival
"The Imperial Cup is the undisputed racing highlight this weekend and this year’s renewal looks to be as competitive as ever, with Nicholls boasting two entries..."
The Imperial Cup is the racing highlight on the weekend before Cheltenham and Nicholls could be double-handed for the competitive handicap hurdle...
Grandioso looks the one likely to get Nicholls underway on Thursday afternoon, that one set to go to post in a handicap hurdle at Wincanton. Grandioso disappointed last time, finishing fourth over course and distance, and will need to find improvement if he is to prove competitive with Qalinas, who currently heads the ratings and is considered 15 lb superior to the Nicholls runner. However, it is perfectly feasible that he could do so, though it's worth noting that he holds an entry for a novice hurdle at the same venue on Friday, with his intended target yet to be confirmed.
Minella Stars and Prince Tom look to be the champion trainer's other two representatives on the afternoon, the pair entered in the very next race on the card, a novice chase over three miles and a furlong. Minella Stars looks to have every chance based on Timeform ratings as he has just 2 lb to find with top-rated Emmaslegend, whilst Prince Tom, whose dam won a 20f mares' maiden chase for the trainer, is going over the larger obstacles for the first time. Minella Stars also hold an entry in a beginners' chase at Chepstow on Saturday.
Oscarslad looks an interesting Nicholls runner at Wincanton on Friday, the six-year-old gelding set to make his handicap debut over hurdles having had the three qualification runs. Oscarslad's finishing effort has left a lot to be desired in his three outings so far but he cannot be ruled out given his connections and improvement could be forthcoming. Oscarslad also holds an entry at Chepstow on Saturday, and his intended target is unknown at the time of writing.
Mr Mole and Presenting Arms look the most fascinating of the remaining Nicholls runners at Wincanton, those two entered in the bumper that closes the card. Mr Mole is a debutant for the yard but his pedigree gives some hope that he could be useful being half-brother to two winners. Presenting Arms, on the other hand, is twice raced and has 12 lb to find with the Timeform top-rated Rydon Pines, suggesting he could be one for handicaps.
Nicholls also has a number of runners over at Sandown on Friday with The Pretender set to go to post in an amateur riders' handicap hurdle, Hoo La Baloo entered in the Grand Military Gold Cup and both Indian Daudaie and Hawkes Point in a seperate handicap hurdle. Also lining up on the card could be Gwanako in the hunter chase, but he's also engaged in similar races at both Leicester and Wincanton on the same afternoon.
Sandown is also the venue for the majority of Nicholls runners on Saturday with Dualla Lord likely to get things underway in a Grade 3 novice handicap hurdle. Dualla Lord currently has a Timeform master rating of 134 after an impressive run on his penultimate start at Taunton back in January and he can be expected to build upon that in the near future. The step back up to two-and-a-half-mile trip should suit and he is expected to go well off of his current handicap mark, with his lightly-race profile suggesting that he could be one to follow throughout the spring.
Aldertune and Martys Mission are entered in the next race, an ultra-competitive three-mile handicap chase. Martys Mission looks to be the slightly better treated of the pair as he is just 1 lb off of the Timeform top-rated Qhlimar, with Aldertune considered 2 lb inferior to his stablemate. Both also hold an entry in the final race on the card and it will be interesting to see who goes for what.
The Imperial Cup is the undisputed racing highlight this weekend and this year's renewal looks to be as competitive as ever with Nicholls boasting two entries, namely Ted Spread and Hinterland. Ted Spread looks the most likely winner of that pair, having posted an impressive victory at Taunton last time, travelling in impressive fashion and beating some solid handicappers quite convincingly. He is also likely to have improvement to come given that Saturday will be his fourth start over hurdles, and he will be bidding to complete an Imperial Cup and Cheltenham Festival double, notably holding entries in both the County Hurdle and the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey's race at this stage.
Hinterland has always seemed an embryonic chaser so it's encouraging he's shown so much over hurdles. It's likely he has more to offer and is being lined up as a deputy for his stablemate should the ground turn soft.
Chepstow is the other venue for Nicholls on Saturday with Mr Hudson, The Gossmoor Yank and Minella Stars all entered in a beginners' chase. Of the trio, Mr Hudson and Minella Stars hold the most credible chances of victory given they are just 5 lb behind Ben's Folly, but it is worth remember that Minella Stars has prior engagements during the week. That said, The Gossmoor Yank has disappointed on his latest two starts and does have something to prove now.
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