Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nicholls Six-Pack Will Add Muscle to Title Bid; the Trainer Boasts a Powerful Hand in This Weekend's Grand National as He Closes in on His First Championship, Writes Graham Cunningham

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nicholls Six-Pack Will Add Muscle to Title Bid; the Trainer Boasts a Powerful Hand in This Weekend's Grand National as He Closes in on His First Championship, Writes Graham Cunningham

Article excerpt

Byline: GRAHAM CUNNINGHAM

THEY said he would never become champion trainer while the relentless Martin Pipe was around. But Paul Nicholls is about to prove the doubters wrong and another socalled jinx will be put to rest if one of the strongest teams of Grand National horses ever sent to Aintree by one trainer can come home in front on Saturday.

The magnificent seven was reduced by one when Eurotrek was withdrawn due to a leg infection yesterday, but Nicholls will still need eyes in the back of his head before and during the National in order to keep tabs on a sextet made up of Royal Auclair, Cornish Rebel, Silver Birch, Le Duc, Heros Collonges and Le Roi Miguel.

No one would be surprised if the nerves were beginning to fray as the big day approaches, yet Nicholls headed north from his Somerset base [pounds sterling]750,000 clear of his arch rival Pipe and safe in the knowledge that anything achieved in the National is the cherry on top of a rich cake indeed.

"It's all about the team of people and horses we've put together over the years," he said. "We got off to a good start this year and the horses held their form right through the winter and, fingers crossed, we're nearly there as regards the title now," he said.

The truth is that the last month of the season promises to be a lap of honour for Nicholls, especially if his Aintree team lives up to expectations.

"The National hasn't been the luckiest race for us, but we're getting closer after Royal Auclair finished second last year and all this year's horses have earned their chance to go there," he added.

So which of the Nicholls team are most likely to make the headlines at Aintree? "It's hard to know, but I'm convinced that Cornish Rebel would have been in the first three in the Gold Cup but for slipping badly at the third last and if he takes to Aintree then the ability is definitely there," he added.

"Royal Auclair ran a blinder last year. He has a lot of weight as a result but his rider Christian Williams was delighted with him even though he only finished ninth in the Gold Cup, while Silver Birch has won over the National fences and might just be a different horse again if fitting him with a tongue strap does the trick. …

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