Wonderful Charm my best chance of festival success says Paul Nicholls
Paul Nicholls reckons his best chance at the Cheltenham Festival will be in the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase, the race which supplied his only victory at last year's meeting.
The ten-time champion trainer saddled a one-two 12 months ago, when Pacha Du Polder, under Bryony Frost, beat Wonderful Charm by a neck, and he could run as many four in the amateurs' Gold Cup a fortnight on Friday.
The Nicholls festival team includes Black Corton in the RSA Chase, Politologue in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, Frodon in the Ryanair, Old Guard in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle and Saphir Du Rheu in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
But their trainer believes Wonderful Charm, who will be ridden by Gold Cup-winning amateur Sam Waley-Cohen after his father Robert bought a share in the horse, offers his best route to the winner's podium.
"Wonderful Charm has a massive chance," said Nicholls during an event hosted by his sponsor the Morson Group at his Ditcheat yard on Monday.
"All the other races are mega-competitive and we have chances but if the ground is good Wonderful Charm can go one better this year. He's my best chance. He's a bit quirky and ground-dependent but is a good horse when he's right.
"We've trained him just for that race. He has a good pilot on him as well. Katie [Walsh] rode him last year and she just got a bit unlucky in running, probably following the wrong horse during the race, the favourite, and then got a bit behind.
"Last year I had to run him twice. I had to qualify him and then go to Haydock. One run is perfect for him. He's had that and he's ready to go."
Nicholls said defending champion Pacha Du Polder had been behind schedule and may not be as good as last year.
He said: "We'll probably end up running four: Wonderful Charrm, Pacha Du Polder, Unioniste – who won yesterday and will be ridden by David Maxwell who owns him – and Virak, who will be ridden by Lorcan Williams.
"Pacha Du Polder's been a bit behind because he had problems after Aintree last year and came in late. He needed last week's run really badly and will improve that. I've said to his owner Andy Stewart I'm not quite sure he's the horse he was, but he might prove me wrong.
"He's got to come back to form a bit and having had an injury it's not ideal. Last year we had a clear run.
"Wonderful Charm will go very well, Virak goes well and Rose Loxton, my head girl, trains Caid Du Berlais, who won yesterday at Badbury Rings and has won three Opens on the trot, and he'll run. He's an ex-Paddy Power Gold Cup winner and not without a chance."
Wonderful Charm is generally second favourite for the Foxhunter at around 6-1, behind 4-1 market leader Burning Ambition.
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