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Can Paul Nicholls land at least one winner at this year’s Cheltenham Festival?

For a man who once ruled the roost at the Cheltenham Festival, it must have been a strange feeling to go the whole four days without recording at least one victory. Paul Nicholls is one of Britain’s most successful trainers, but as the surge of Irish success has gripped the Cheltenham Festival, his wins at the prestigious meeting have dried up. The nadir came last year, as Nicholls did not record a single winner.

A new year brings fresh opportunities, and Nicholls will head to Cheltenham desperate to deliver some better performances at the Prestbury Park venue. The days where he was winning the Leading Trainer award on a regular basis feel like a lifetime ago, but there are still plenty of strong horses in his stables who are capable of doing damage.

Perhaps the most significant of these is Bravemansgame, who can currently be found at odds of around 3/1 for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase according to the Cheltenham races betting odds. The seven-year-old is one of the most exciting talents in the sport at the moment, and with four wins in his last four races, it’s easy to see why he’s fancied at Cheltenham. His recent win in the Betfair Cheltenham Roarcast Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase at Newbury was another example of his qualities, and it’s no wonder Nicholls regards Bravemansgame so highly, both now and for the future.

“He’s rated 164 after that win at Newbury,” the trainer said,“which is higher than what Denman was rated when he won the old RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2007. I was getting berated by people for comparing this horse to Denman, but I wasn’t far wrong on ratings and on what he’s done up until now.

“He’s got a big chance at Cheltenham, but his whole career isn’t about winning at the Festival this year. We want him to, but he’ll have a big chance in a lot of big races in years to come too, we hope.”

Another novice who Nicholls hopes will live up to his potential at Cheltenham is Stage Star, who is currently at odds of 8/1 for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. The six-year-old is unbeaten this season, having claimed three successive victories with Harry Cobden in the saddle. The only concern is that this is a race laden with talented horses, and Stage Star will need to prove he can get the better of the likes of Sir Gerhard, Constitution Hill and Dysart Dynamo to claim victory.

In terms of the biggest races of the Cheltenham Festival, Nicholls doesn’t boast as many big names as he has done in the best. According to the Cheltenham races tips,Saint Calvados is a 16/1 chance for the Ryanair Chase, although the nine-year-old hasn’t won a race since October 2019, and that doesn’t bode well for his chances of causing an upset.

Of course, there is always the wildcard factor of Politologue, who will be attempting to regain the Queen Mother Champion Chase title. It’s fair to say that his 2020 victory was somewhat surprising, with a number of more fancied contenders failing to deliver the goods, but he has the experience of delivering the goods on the big stage.

The main thing working against Politologue is his age. The 11-year-old will be up against significantly younger legs in the day two Cheltenham showpiece, and that could make all the difference when push comes to shove.

For Nicholls, there are good chances to earn a win or two at this year’s Festival, but at the same time, it feels as if his stranglehold on the Cheltenham Festival is weakening by the year. The Irish heavyweights have left him in their dust.

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