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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
News
A girl plays on a Sony 'PS Vita' portable games console
news
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
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

Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines