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Nicholls Team Taking a Breather

Paul Nicholls is having another tremendous season and has plenty to look forward to at the Cheltenham Festival next month. In recent days is has been noticeable that there have been far fewer runners that normal for the Somerset handler but there is definitely nothing to worry about, writes Elliot Slater.

Big Buck's

Big Buck's

Although 10 winners behind arch rival Nicky Henderson (who moved on to the 99 mark for the season with four winners around the country on Saturday February 5), Nicholls has a clear lead in prize money thanks mainly to Master Minded and Paul Nicholls Big Buck's, who have both been reaping rich rewards so far this term. On most Saturdays, with so many valuable races to run in, Nicholls normally has battalions of runners covering the length and breadth of the land, but this weekend he sent out just three contenders, none of whom managed to reach the frame.

Nicholls has certainly decided that February, traditionally the quietest month on the National Hunt winter calendar, is the right time to give his horses a bit of a breather from racecourse action. Indeed following just the three weekend runners, Nicholls has no more horses entered to run until Thursday 10 February, at the very earliest so anyone looking for Paul Nicholls tips will have to wait a little while.

I very much suspect that the champion trainer has judged things just about right. With Cheltenham looming large on the radar he seems determined to bring as many horses as possible to the four-day extravaganza in tip-top shape, and a slight break from racecourse duty can do them absolutely no harm at all. There is no hint at all that the Nicholls team has a problem or is out of form (seven winners in the previous 10 days clears that up), and his 25 per cent strike rate remains a figure that most trainers can only dream of.

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