Nicholls stable hit by coughing (but Kauto's OK)


Statistics have been telling a tale for several weeks now and yesterday the man at the wrong end of one of the lines on the graph, Paul Nicholls, confirmed his concerns for the health of some of his Manor Farm charges. The six-times champion trainer has saddled just one winner this month – Zarkandar at Newbury on Friday – and all his 16 runners on Saturday lost. "It's fairly obvious we had a moderate weekend," he said, "and I have several horses coughing."

With the start of the Cheltenham Festival now in sight, the timing of any infection in the ranks could hardly be worse – though one horse who seems unaffected is the yard's top celebrity, Kauto Star, due to run in the Gold Cup three weeks on Friday.

Nicholls, one of the most accommodating and helpful of his profession in disseminating information and updates, has been forced to close ranks, including the cancellation of tomorrow's pre-Cheltenham media day, an annual occasion when the chief contenders for the sport's showcase occasion are customarily paraded with pride.

This year, as well as the Gold Cup second favourite Kauto Star, they would have included such as Big Buck's, Zarkandar, Rock On Ruby, Al Ferof, Pearl Swan and Ranjaan. But under the circumstances, any disruption of their routine is best avoided.

"It's my duty now to leave no stone unturned as we prepare during the last three weeks before the Festival," said Nicholls, "and the horses and their owners must come first." One of those who pay the oats and vet bills, Clive Smith, has his fingers crossed for Kauto Star. "Everything is fine with him as far as we know," he said.

Nicholls fields three horses at his local track, Taunton, this afternoon. In all, 17 of his 105 runners this year have won, an overall strike rate of 16 per cent, which has declined to just 3 per cent since the start of this month, compared with 23 per cent during November and December. His chief rival, Nicky Henderson, is on a roll, with 37 winners – including seven since Friday – from 126 runners since the start of January, at 29 per cent. Nicholls and Henderson are joint-second in the market for top Festival trainer, behind Willie Mullins.

Of other leading stables, Alan King's is also on an upward curve ahead of Cheltenham. But one of its most progressive inmates, Hold On Julio, has failed to recover from his own bout of coughing to keep his date on Saturday at Kempton in the Racing First Chase, for which he has been replaced by Planet of Sound as favourite. Hold On Julio will now head straight for the JLT Chase at the Festival's opening session.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap: Hobb's Dream (2.30 Taunton)

Has been chasing but stayed on strongly last month for a wide-margin win on her return to hurdles. Chances of a repeat today helped by her rider's claim.

Next best: Volcan Surprise (3.50 Wetherby)

Runner-up three times from four since his transfer from France. Perm any from a step up in trip, first-time cheekpieces and the juvenile weight allowance to get him off the mark.

Where the money's going: Champion Court was the punters' Cheltenham pick yesterday, cut to 9-1 from 12s for the Jewson Novices Chase by Paddy Power.

Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
peopleActress tells men: 'It's your issue too'
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

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam