Nicholls team still believed they could win Trainers' title

Paul Nicholls trailed Nicky Henderson by just shy of £200,000 when racing was suspended.
Paul Nicholls trailed Nicky Henderson by just shy of £200,000 when racing was suspended.

The Paul Nicholls team still believed that they could catch Nicky Henderson in the Trainers' Championship before racing was suspended, according to Megan Nicholls. 

Nicholls trailed Henderson by £192,650.86 after the Cheltenham Festival, and following the suspension of racing due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the BHA took the decision to declare both the Trainers' and the Jockeys' Championships as final - rewarding the respective titles to Henderson and Brian Hughes. 

However, there were still a host of high-profile meetings set to take place in April at the likes of Aintree and Sandown - fixtures at which Nicholls traditionally does particularly well at - and his daughter Megan Nicholls revealed that he hadn't given up hope of catching his old friend and rival. 

Speaking to the HorseRacing At Home Podcast, she said: "Obviously, dad was gutted. We had a big team for the end of the season at the likes of Aintree, Ayr and Sandown, but we had a great season and the horses were eased down as normal and turned out at the usual time. 

“He most definitely hadn’t given up, and we had a huge squad for the end of the season. The ground dries up which helps us a lot, so he was gutted and it was a shame. It would have been interesting to see what happened, because we did have a really strong team of horses to finish the season with.  

"We always go into Cheltenham pretty level (with Nicky Henderson), and the last few years we tend to come out behind. Nicky seems to have more horses for those bigger races - he always has a nice string for the Champion Hurdle and the Champion Chase with Altior for the last few years. 

"We’ve probably not quite had the firepower that he’s had for the past couple of years, but dad has tried to not run horses at Cheltenham for the sake of it, and save them for the likes of Aintree and Ayr, because there’s still some good races and some good money to be won."

Meanwhile, Nicholls revealed that her highlight of the season was watching Polotilogue win the Queen Mother Champion Chase for her dad, Harry Skelton and owner John Hales;

“Obviously for me, I missed a lot of it. I watched as much as I could from Dubai, but got back in time and for dad to have a Cheltenham Festival winner in Politologue was awesome," she said. 

"It was great for the whole team and for John Hales - he absolutely adores that horse - and he’s a horse that’s an underdog a lot of the time.

"He’s finished second and third in some big races and don’t get me wrong he’s won the Tingle Creek, but he deserved that day and it was great for Harry Skelton as well.

"He’d been with us for a long time and been very much part of the yard and part of the family, so that was probably the highlight."

Team Ditcheat has had a growing presence on the Flat in recent years, and Nicholls added that while the first priority would always be the Jumps, they were actively keeping their eyes open for opportunities on the level.

She said: “If we have the right horses, then it’s definitely something that dad would like to do. Not all of our horses we would be able to turn to the Flat, as a lot are bred to be three-mile chasers in time, so unfortunately for me not all of them have quite enough zip for the Flat! 

"We do well with those horses that are dual purpose, the likes of Moabit and Cliffs Of Dover have won a good few between them, while Birds Of Prey won his last start, so we do have a lot of nice horses for those nice staying races and hopefully we can continue to find them and do a bit of both."

Megan was speaking to the latest episode of the HorseRacing at Home Podcast, which you can listen to below. 

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