Paul Nicholls gunning for gold after special day but 'it's a hot Paddy Power'
Paul Nicholls was at Windsor Castle picking up the medal for his OBE from the Prince of Wales on Wednesday, but hopes to receive something equally shiny this weekend when firing two bullets at Cheltenham's Paddy Power Gold Cup.
Nicholls starts the core winter season – his 30th with a licence – chasing a 13th training title and has the chance to showcase his skills with Lalor and Simply The Betts, who make their debuts on Saturday for his all-conquering Ditcheat yard.
The trainer knows what it takes to land the Paddy Power, which is worth a healthy £160,000 having won it with Al Ferof in 2012 and two years later with Caid Du Berlais.
"We've got some nice horses to run at Cheltenham over the three days," he said. "Obviously, there are the two nice horses in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, but that race is as competitive as ever."
Stable jockey Harry Cobden is set to ride Lalor, who lost his way for Kayley Woollacott, but is Paddy Power's joint 5-1 favourite with the Dan Skelton-trained Protektorat.
Simply The Betts, the mount of Bryony Frost, is no forlorn hope at 12-1 having been transferred from Harry Whittington's yard.
They are not the only smart performers Nicholls will run as Politologue and Rouge Vif contest Sunday's Shloer Chase, which has the makings of a mini Champion Chase with Queen Mother heroine Put The Kettle On and the classy Nube Negra engaged.
"I'm looking forward to it and we've the two in the Shloer as well," he added. "It's a big weekend of racing – they all are from now – while the horses are in good form and we've had a good run. Going to Windsor Castle was a special day and hopefully it continues at Cheltenham."
Professional punter Dan Gilbert played down an overnight gamble on his Nietzsche for the Paddy Power Gold Cup – and suggested it may have been caused by the Racing Post Weekender.
The chaser he part-owns was quoted as short as 16-1 for the Cheltenham race by the sponsors on Wednesday morning, having been a 33-1 chance with the same firm on Tuesday afternoon.
Nietzsche's odds have also been cut by all other firms and is no better than 20-1.
But Gilbert, who has had horses with his trainer Brian Ellison for more than a decade and has never been afraid to back his judgement, denies any responsibility for the plunge on a horse who was tipped by columnist Maddy Playle in the Weekender.
"Someone sent me an article in the Weekender. If he's been backed, I'd imagine that's had an impact," he said.
"I wouldn't have backed him myself. I might have backed him if he was 50-1 on the day, but he's up against it. He's an eight-year-old and he's not bred to be at his best at eight; he's been running since he was a two-year-old. He also has three to come out to get a run.
"I'd love to be wrong – I get these things wrong all the time! – but I still imagine he'll be 50-1 on the day. It's a hot race."
Nietzsche won the Greatwood Hurdle at this weekend's Cheltenham meeting in 2018 and had a prep run for the Paddy Power when fifth on the Flat at Catterick last month.
"He's been trained for the race," Gilbert said. "It's been the plan to go there fresh and the best way that Brian gets them to Cheltenham is to have a spin on the Flat and go there full of enthusiasm.
"If he runs and jumps like he did in the Ultima last March I could see him being in the first six; he was just too keen that day. I wouldn't be surprised if he was in the first four, but I'd be a little bit surprised if he won.
"But it's worth a go. He runs all his best races at Cheltenham and it's a great race to run in. He's won a Greatwood and nearly won a Fred Winter; he's been a great horse to own."
Explaining their decision to cut Nietzsche's odds, Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: "We saw a few bets for the horse and one of our traders took a deeper look at him.
"They reckoned he was over-priced, so they decided to cut his odds."
Paddy Power Gold Cup
Paddy Power: 5 Lalor, Protektorat, 7 Al Dancer, 8 Caribean Boy, 9 Midnight Shadow, 11 Zanza, 12 Galahad Quest, Simply The Betts, 14 Coole Cody 16 Nietzsche
All the latest on this weekend's Cheltenham meeting:
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