Nicholls shapes his plans to fit Bay's eccentric contours


Given that awards and judgements seem to be a natural feature of the turn of a year, surely the statisticians at the sport's ratings bible Timeform can take the opportunity to hand out a bit of justice with the removal of one of their pejorative gongs. For the past four seasons the symbol for unreliability – a periwig squiggle – has accompanied their annual essays on the classy but enigmatic Tidal Bay.

Sure, the old recidivist, whose talent has on many an occasion seemed to exceed his enthusiasm, may have earned his black mark. But in view of the 11-year-old's record since making the transfer from the warned-off Howard Johnson to the champion trainer Paul Nicholls, perhaps it is time for a rethink.

Horses are rarely innately bloody-minded, but physical vicissitudes can make effort uncomfortable, resulting in a lack of wholehearted co-operation. And with a change of management and regime and a full-scale MOT, Tidal Bay is now able to express his talent without negative expectations and has gone from Hyde to Jekyll.

In his last four runs, he has won what used to be the Whitbread Gold Cup, a Grade Two staying hurdle at Wetherby, finished second under top weight in the Hennessy Gold Cup and, three days ago, took the Grade One Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. He still appears to have some foibles – he needs to be ridden with restraint and presented in the finish as late as possible – but there was no doubting his determination at Leopardstown as he answered Ruby Walsh's call to thrust himself between Ireland's best and put his head in front in the final stride.

Tidal Bay's victory and his rejuvenation have brought a deal of professional and personal pleasure to Nicholls and the plan he has formulated for the Graham Wylie-owned gelding is one worthy of his quirks. The horse is now in the Gold Cup reckoning, but the alterative Festival scenario is to revert to the smaller obstacles for a tilt at the World Hurdle, followed by a trip to Aintree for the Grand National.

"That would be unorthodox," admitted Nicholls yesterday, "but he's the one horse who could do it. He'll have an entry for both the Cheltenham races and the ground would play a part in deciding his target; it would need to be testing for him to run in the Gold Cup. If it's like it normally is in March, on the good side, then it would be the World Hurdle, and he'd have a real chance in that.

"I wasn't too surprised he won in Ireland and he might have won more easily if he hadn't missed the last. He had improved since the Hennessy. Now that we have learnt how to train him and made things more comfortable he jumps better and travels better. He now has belief and confidence in himself."

Nicholls drew a line under 2012, which had drawn to an end with some trying moments (like the contentious removal of the retired Kauto Star and the loss from the ranks through injury of four-time World Hurdle victor Big Buck's) with not only Tidal Bay's triumph but also by winning with his last runner of the year, Landscape, at Taunton yesterday.

On the jumping front, though, the old may be rung out and the new in with a muffled peal. Today's sport at Uttoxeter and Punchestown – where the classy Solwhit is due to make his long-awaited comeback – and tomorrow's traditional hangover-busting meeting at currently waterlogged Cheltenham are subject to inspections, with more rain forecast. Today's Warwick fixture is a victim of the weather.

Turf Account

CHRIS McGRATH'S NAP: Lucky Di (12.30 Lingfield)

Off the mark over today's course and distance 12 days ago, just her fourth run and her first after a break. Carries top weight for her handicap debut but has a progressive profile.

NEXT BEST: Kung Hei Fat Choy (2.30 Lingfield)

Yet to score in this grade but won handily at this course on his first try on the faster all-weather surface earlier in the month.

ONE TO WATCH: Plenty to have run recently will do better when the ground eases, among them The Nephew (Jonjo O'Neill), not given a hard time behind the well-regarded Poet in a novices' contest at Newbury.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride