Mullins v Nicholls: Which horses are likely to triumph?

Paul Nicholls is aiming to cement his dominance over the British National Hunt scene by winning an 11th champion trainer title in 13 years this season. He was usurped by Nicky Henderson last season, but is currently leading the way this time around and looks a good bet to pull it off.

 

Over in Ireland, Willie Mullins is even more dominant as he has been named champion trainer in his homeland for the past decade. The real fun comes when Mullins heads over the Irish Sea to pit his wits against Nicholls in the big races, and he has enjoyed plenty of success. In 2015/16 he came within a whisker of becoming the first Irish-based trainer to win the British champion trainer title since Vincent O’Brien in the 1950s, only to lose out to Nicholls on the final day of the season at Sandown.

 

Their rivalry at big meetings like Cheltenham has captured the public’s imagination for years and it will be no different this season. Between them they have some of the most exciting horses of the season and we have picked out the leading lights to follow:

 

Politologue

Nicholls singled out Politologue when asked about his stable’s best chances of success this season and it is easy to see why. He put in several commanding performances to win novices’ chases and was leading the brilliant San Benedento in the G1 Maghull at Aintree in April, only to stumble after jumping the last to hand victory to his stablemate. He will start his autumn campaign at the Haldon Gold Cup and will surely spark a lot of interest in the Sporting Index spreads due to his considerable reputation.

 

Douvan

Mullins’ bay gelding was the star performer last season as he extended a superb 13-race winning streak with a number of victories over triple Gold Cup winner Sizing John. He destroyed all and sundry and looked unbeatable, only to break his pelvis and finish seventh in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. He has since been recovering, but Mullins is positive about his fitness and will reintroduce him to competitive action this winter, while Ruby Walsh is upbeat about his ability to bounce back. Once he gets into his stride, Douvan is a force to be reckoned with and if he returns to his best he will be invincible.

 

Benie Des Dieux

Mullins and Rich Ricci look to have another in a long line of excellent mares on their hands in Benie Des Dieux, who put in a stunning performance to claim the Closutton at Limerick on her debut. It was not the most competitive of races, but she travelled extremely well and looks a natural chaser.

San Benedento

The six-year-old chestnut gelding won four out of five races in 2017, including the Group 1 Maghull, and did well to hold onto Altior’s coattails in the Celebration Chase at Sandown. Altior is the best in the business over two miles, so to have stayed with him is a real achievement and if San Benedento can kick on Nicholls will have a real talent on his hands.

Coquin Mans

Mullins snapped up the son of Fragrant Mix after he won a maiden hurdle in France and he has since won all three of his contests. The first came at Limerick in December 2016, where he did well to hold off the charge of Surf Instructor and win by a head. He stepped up in trip to three miles at Wexford this summer as Walsh guided him to a 2 3/4 lengths win over Amaulino. In his last race, at Cork, he gave weight to all his competitors and thrashed the lot, finishing eight lengths clear of Jaime Sommers. Sterner tests await, but Coquin has strong breeding and fantastic potential.

Penhill

Brighton & Hove Albion owner Tony Bloom has seen his beloved team reach the Premier League this season, but his sporting success does not end there. He also owns Penhill, a superb dual-purpose horse that has made a splash in both the jumps and flats. Trained by Mullins, Penhill romped to victory in the hugely prestigious Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham and looks to have a great future ahead of him. Mullins guided Wicklow Brave to phenomenal success in both disciplines and Penhill could follow in those giant footsteps.

Topofthegame

This horse is a real giant and seems built for three mile trips and larger obstacles, so he should show his true ability this season. He is a 139 rated novice hurdler and has performed creditably thus far, but this should be the year when Nicholls gets the best out of him and spurs him on to success at his preferred trip. 

Frodon

Like San Bernedeto, Frodon has bags of experience and has always been there or thereabouts in all contests as he has stepped up in class. He has won seven of 14 career starts for Nicholls and has the ability to get much better, but he will find it difficult to deal with heavier weights this season.

Augusta Kate

Mullins’ mare draws an eclectic and famous group of owners: former England striker Alan Shearer, golfer Lee Westwood and TV stars Ant & Dec among others. They are likely to be well-compensated for their investment as she looks a terrific prospect. She has the pedigree – Yeats and Feathard Lady – to be a star and she blitzed the field on her bumper debut at Listowel. Expect to see her at Cheltenham, where she will be a threat to all comers.

 

Author bio

Martin Green is an experienced tipster and horseracing correspondent.

 

 

Kelso

kelsoKelso racecourse is located in the market town by the same name within Roxburghshire County, Scotland. It is a National Hunt course owned by Kelso Races Ltd, with events televised on Racing UK.

 

History

Racing at Kelso was first recorded in 1734, when it set out as a site for flat racing. The race type continued until 1888, when the United Border Hunt became the first jump race to be introduced at the course. Flat racing ceased in the same period, and it has remained a jump races course to date.

In the course’s early days, races were moved to Balakelaw, but the decision proved unpopular as the new venue was far from town and also lacked grandstands. The result was a plunge in the number of racegoers, and a resultant dip in profits. The races were thus moved back to Berrymoss, and the race going trend shot up again, and has at this point grown into a culture.

The course

Kelso is considered the Scottish home of National Hunt races. It is a peculiarly shaped course, forming a trapezium shape on the circuit, which has a straight starting run hanging out like a human arm. It is a left handed course whose two tracks consist of sharp bends that give races a start-stop kind of dash, requiring high levels of skill and concentration from the jockeys.

It is widely regarded as the friendliest course in Britain, and has scooped the Best Small Racecourse award of the Racegoers Club numerous times.

Road access is the easiest way to get to Kelso, seeing as the closes railway station is Berwick, 22 miles away.

Races

It hosts thirteen fixtures in a season, between January and May. January, April and the final month of May carry the bulk of racing fixtures.

Morebattle Hurdle, Premier Kelso Hurdle and the King’s Own Challenge Cup are the most notable races run at Kelso. Trainers use races at in the first two months of the year to prepare for the Aintree National Hunt.

Huntingdon

huntingdonThe course is located in Brampton, close to the market town of Huntingdon in the Cambridgeshire county of England. It is a jump-races-only track owned by the Jockey Club Racecourses. Events at the course are televised on Racing UK.

History

The course has been host to jump events since 1886, when the first race was held in Easter. There were races scattered around Cambridgeshire at the time, but eventually Huntingdon took over as the main course in the area.

Course

The racetrack is a free-draining one-mile three-furlong surface, with a predominantly flat gradient. These factors make it a stable ground, allowing horses to exploit speed to the maximum. Jockeys and owners often refer to Huntingdon as The Home of Speed.

The course sits on the Brampton Racecourse Site of Special Scientific Interest, (SSSI) a 21.1 ha land area. The SSSI classification means it is a protected area, limiting the amount of modification that can be done on it. This has in no way curtailed the magnificence of the venue. The management has made good use of approved changes to set up a grandstand with private viewing suites, bars and betting areas. Service is great, reason the Huntingdon has recently been voted Best Small Racecourse in the region of East Anglia and South Midlands.

Part of service is a free car service present on race days to ferry racegoers between the train station and the racecourse. Also, young adults and senior citizens can receive discounted admission upon application.

Races

17 race meetings are held at the Huntingdon in a calendar year. The races are spread across nine months in the year, with the Peterborough Chase regarded as the most popular. The chase did move to other tracks in 2010 and 2012, as the frozen Huntingdon track proved unusable in those years.

Best Mate is probably the most famous horse to have run at the course, if you consider him greater than the Desert Orchid. Other big names like Edredon Bleu and One Man are also on its stats.