Nicholls lining up strong Chepstow squad

Paul Nicholls is busy planning ahead for next month’s two-day Unibet Jump Season Opener at Chepstow.

The October 13 and 14 fixtures are traditionally regarded as the first major cards of the National Hunt season.

Nicholls has won the Grade Two Unibet Persian War Novices’ Hurdle on eight occasions, with dual King George hero Silviniaco Conti among his victors.

This year, Cheltenham Champion Bumper third Captain Teague has been earmarked to represent the Ditcheat team.

“Probably Captain Teague (will run) if it keeps raining,” the 14-time champion trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s obviously a decent horse; he won his point, a bumper and ran well at the Festival. He’ll be ready to go if the ground is on the easy side.

“If it was fast, we could run Matterhorn. In three weeks, it could go one way or the other, so we’ll just keep our options open. We’ll have 10, 11 or 12 horses lined up to run in other races.”

Nicholls kicked off his autumn campaign with a winner when Outlaw Peter got the better of Walk In Clover in a Newton Abbot novices’ chase match race under Harry Cobden.

“He jumped well,” stated the trainer. “He’s probably not the ideal front runner, so we were in an impossible situation with the other horse wanting to follow us, but Harry said when he wanted him to, he just picked up nicely.

“He’s probably three weeks off being fully ready but after that we can go to somewhere like Chepstow or Cheltenham.”

Nicholls is expected to enjoy lots more success with chasing newcomers this term and Select Hurdle scorer Knappers Hill could start out at Chepstow next month.

“Knappers Hill is likely to run at that meeting,” he added. “I’ve always thought he’d go there. He’s done a lot of schooling.

“He’s not the biggest in the world and I could have stayed hurdling with him for another season, but he got really good at the end of last year and he’s done plenty at home.

“My thought was to go there and then possibly the Rising Stars at Wincanton with him.

“Stay Away Fay wants soft ground and there’s a 40 grand novice for him at Exeter on Haldon Gold Cup day, but I haven’t really thought about Hermes Allen yet.

“There’s not too many races around for those type of horses now, as there’s a lot of novice handicaps, so you’ve got to work around that.

“We might have to travel north a lot more to find races, it’s all about getting experience into them before you step up a gear. All of them will probably come on for a run, but they are coming along nicely.”

Finding new stars to match the exploits of past greats such as Kauto Star, Denman and Big Buck’s is always going to be tough, but Nicholls is up for the challenge.

Regarding his current crop, he commented: “It would be impossible to be as good as ever, when we had all of those stars, but we’ve got some good horses, headed up by Bravemansgame at the top.

“We’ve got 18 bumper winners from last season to go novice hurdling and a lot of novice chasers, so we’ve got a very strong team and they all look great. It’s exciting times at this time of the year!”

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