Denman plans fast-tracked

Nicholls tempted by switch to Cheltenham on Saturday for Gold Cup prep run

Though he was reserving judgement until consulting the horse's owners, later in the week, it was hard to escape the impression here yesterday that Paul Nicholls is increasingly disposed to run Denman at Cheltenham on Saturday. Measuring a bird in the hand against two in the bush, the champion trainer sounded eager to get Denman's final Gold Cup rehearsal out of the way while he has the chance. In fact, he went so far as saying that he'd be "dead keen" to bring forward what is sure to prove a tense ritual, if getting the nod from Denman's co-owners, Paul Barber and Harry Findlay.

The original intention was to keep Denman for the Aon Chase at Newbury on 13 February, back at the scene of two famous wins in the Hennessy Gold Cup, but Nicholls is wary of another freeze intruding on his schedule. And the man charged with preparing Kauto Star and Denman for their momentous showdown is always anxious, nowadays, to ensure his biggest guns get to the Festival as fresh as possible.

"It wasn't really on the radar," Nicholls admitted. "But I've been amazed how quickly Denman has come to hand. He did a really good bit of work on Saturday, by his standards, and he's ready to run. Paul [Barber] has been keen on Newbury, all along, because the horse has always done so well round there. And this Cheltenham meeting does have a history of bad ground. The last thing we would want to do is give him a really hard race. But if we were to get a dry week, it might make sense."

Nicholls admitted himself tempted by the idea of giving Denman an extra fortnight to freshen up before the Festival. "If you do wait for Newbury, and the weather starts being a problem, you'd be getting very close to Cheltenham," he acknowledged.

While Denman might put plenty on the gate on Saturday, he would doubtless have the reverse effect on the four-legged turnout for the Argento Chase. Only 11 entries were made yesterday, including two others by Nicholls, and most of them would presumably sooner wait for the Aon, should a change of target for Denman be confirmed.

Nicholls endured a couple of short-priced reverses on a dank afternoon here, both in races won by Alan King, enjoying an overdue resurgence after a dispiriting season. But Nicholls was not remotely perturbed to see Tricky Trickster beaten at 4-11 in a novice hurdle, his first start for the stable since changing hands for 320,000 guineas.

Tricky Trickster had last been seen running away with the National Hunt Chase at the Festival, when trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, and William Hill decided his failure to get to grips with Chamirey in no way diminished his prospects for the John Smith's Grand National. He remains 16-1 favourite.

Nicholls came here because he did not want to run him over fences before the Aintree weights are published, on 16 February. "That was absolutely perfect," he insisted. "Just what I expected. He's not fully fit, and not the type to go over hurdles round a tight track like this. It's just given him a nice blow, and he's going to improve enormously. We're training him for one race, so we might as well try to do it properly. I didn't have him right in the autumn, and suspect he's a spring horse really."

Tricky Trickster is likely to wait only four days after the publication of the National weights before returning to fences, at either Wincanton or Haydock, and could well join Denman and Kauto Star in the Gold Cup after that.

Nicholls saddled The Nightingale to make a striking debut over fences in the next race, and it is easy to envisage this one making his presence felt at the Festival, perhaps in the Jewson Novices' Chase. "He finished distressed in his final two races last season, so we gave him a breathing op and some time off," Nicholls said. "That should do his confidence a lot of good, because he was in a pretty bad way last time he went racing. He wasn't 100 per cent fit and should improve quite a bit, and I suspect he'd want a bit farther, too."

Turf account: Chris McGrath

Nap Provost (2.20 Southwell)

Finished stone last three times running last summer before disappearing for three months, but showed immediate signs of revival on his return over course and distance last month. Back on a winning mark for a stable in form.

Next best Pliny (1.40 Leicester)

Significantly well backed on his first start of the season, only to be brought down at halfway. Had laid down solid foundations last winter and should relish a test of stamina.

One to watch Grands Crus (D E Pipe) started favourite for an Aintree bumper last winter but never really showed why until sent off at 66-1 for his hurdling debut at Taunton last week, pulling a long way clear of the third in pursuit of a useful winner.

Where the money's going Coral make Solwhit 6-4 to start favourite for a muddled Smurfit Champion Hurdle, from Zaynar on 13-8 and Go Native on 9-2.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
News
i100
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curre...

Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: You must:- Speak English as a first lang...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: If you are a committed Te...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style