Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls: old sparring partners clash at Sandown
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
PAUL NICHOLLS has effectively conceded his trainers’ title to Nicky Henderson after emerging from Aintree £331,000 adrift.
He claimed on Sunday: “The championship is beyond reach now. If we were talking about £200,000 we might have a chance and it would be worth having a real go, but the gap is too big now.
“I’d have to win everything worth winning between now and the end of the season, and Nicky win nothing, and that’s not going to happen.
“We’ve got loads left to run, and we’ll have both Arpege D’Alene and [last year’s winner] Vicente in the Scottish National, but I’ll just be running those horses I was going to run in the nice races that are left anyway. There’s no point chasing, but we’ll still try to win as many races as we can before the end of the season and then regroup.”
Nicholls has won ten titles since ending Martin Pipe’s domination in 2005-06, his winning streak broken only by Henderson, whose third championship in 2012-13 was a first in 26 years.
Al though his Aintree team was dwarfed by Henderson’s, with five runners in the Grand National he looked to have a live chance of bridging the gap in one go. However, after Vicente was brought down at the first – coincidentally by Henderson’s runner Cocktails At Dawn – and Saphir Du Rheu fell at the 11th he failed to pick up a penny.
Having accepted that an 11th title is almost certainly out of reach for now, Nicholls has set himself a new target.
He said: “What I’d like to do now is train 156 winners, which would be the most I’ve ever trained in a season. We had 155 in 2008-09, and are on 150 now, so that’s not unrealistic.”
He added: “It’s been a brilliant season, and I’m particularly proud of the multiple scorers like Frodon and San Benedeto. We’re just lacking the horses for the very biggest races, but as Fergie [Sir Alex Ferguson] said, ‘You can’t win the Premiership every year, and you are only as good as the players you’ve got’. There’s a lot in that.”
Colin Tizzard’s sensational Aintree, when he saddled five winners in two days, moved him to within £193,000 of Nicholls and suggested he could be a contender for the title himself next season.
He is now almost £600,000 clear of Nigel Twiston-Davies and the rest, and but for the setback met by Thistlecrack shortly before the Gold Cup the picture could have looked even brighter.
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