Paul Nicholls landed a double at Warwick on Thursday
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
PAUL NICHOLLS extended his lead in the race to become Britain’s champion jumps trainer on Thursday, with an across-the-card treble at Warwick and Exeter helping to stretch his advantage over Willie Mullins to £53,556
Mullins drew first blood on Thursday as the battle intensifies before Saturday’s finale, but it didn’t take long for reigning champion Nicholls to hit back with venom.
The first of two runners at Perth for Ireland’s champion trainer, Townshend started odds on for the opening novice hurdle and made no mistake under Paul Townend, making all to run out a convincing winner.
Victory added £3,899 to the trainer’s prize-money total for the season, but Nicholls as good as wiped out that early strike when El Bandit bagged £3,249 with victory in division two of the 2m5f maiden hurdle at Warwick, before The Eaglehaslanded added a healthy £7,148 with an impressive win in the 3m1f handicap hurdle to complete double at Warwick.
For good measure, Nicholls saddled the fourth in that race, Easter Day, who netted an additional £525.
The champion suffered a reverse in Warwick’s 2m handicap chase for novices, with favourite Stilletto finishing last of the three runners, although his effort still added £2,310 to the Nicholls prize-money total.
His last runner at Warwick, Brio Conti, ran a promising third in the 2m bumper, collecting £239 in the process.
After guiding El Bandit to a four-length success, Sam Twiston-Davies, stable jockey to Nicholls, said: “It would be massive and it’s very tough competing against Willie. I know how much it means to the boss and it’s nice to be part of the team if we can pull it off.”
Mullins saddled Tennis Cap in the feature 2m4f handicap chase at Perth, worth £15,640 to the winner, but the nine-year-old came up short behind Witness In Court. Second spot earned Mullins a further £4,620 to his total.
Nicholls added a third winner at Exeter’s evening meeting, with Black Corton leading home a one-two for the stable in the extended 2m maiden hurdle.
With Whipcord in second, Nicholls picked up a handy £3,362 from the class five contest.
The first of five runners for for Nicholls at Exeter’s evening meeting swelled his coffer further, with the Nick Scholfield-partnered Boa Island collecting £477 for finishing third in the 2m7f novice hurdle and there was more place money to follow.
Present Man, well supported for the 3m handicap chase for novices, made a bold bid from the front but had to settle for a narrow second behind Call The Detective, collecting £1,526 for finishing runner-up.
Nine-time champion Nicholls had amassed £2,301,283 in prize-money by the start of racing on Thursday, holding a lead of £43,239 over Mullins, and has one more chance to add to his lead at Exeter.
The battle continues on Friday as Paul Nicholls has four entries at Chepstow, the most valuable of which is worth £7,798 to the winner, while Mullins has just one, at Perth, in a novice handicap chase worth £9,097
2.00 Perth – Townshend won (prize-money earned: £3,899)
4.00 Perth – Tennis Cap second (£4,620)
2.10 Warwick – El Bandit won (£3,249)
3.10 Warwick – The Eaglehaslanded won (£7,148) Easter Day fourth (£525)
3.40 Warwick – Stilletto third (£2,310)
4.40 Warwick – Brio Conti third (£239)
4.55 Exeter – Boa Island third (£477)
6.00 Exeter – Present Man second (£1,526)
7.00 Exeter – Black Corton first (£2,599) Whipcord second (£763)
8.00 Exeter – Bill And Barn
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