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Nicholls 8/11 to retain British jumps trainers’ title

David Metcalf | Updated April 20, 2016

British jumps trainers title going down to the wire

Paul Nicholls has been cut to 8/11 with Coral to prevail in his epic battle with leading Irish handler Willie Mullins and retain his British jumps trainers’ title following Vicente’s success in the Coral Scottish Grand National.

Nicholls had been 5/1 before the seven-year-old’s game success in a thrilling contest at Ayr contributed a much needed £119,595 to his prize money pot.

Ayr Races - Vicente Coral Scottish Grand National - Scottish Grand National Day

The Ditcheat handler, who has been champion nine times, went on to land a sensational four-timer on Scotland’s richest jumps card and followed-up with another quartet of winners at Wincanton yesterday.

Those successes put Nicholls £43,160 ahead of Mullins, but there is still lots to play for before the season ends at Sandown on Saturday, April 23rd.

County Carlow handler Mullins had a one-two in the 3m novices’ hurdle on the opening day of the Perth Festival, bringing in more than £14,500 to his total prize money; but Nicholls netted a second and a winner during a Wednesday evening meeting at Taunton that added around £6,300 to his pot.

Mullins targeting big guns at Sandown finale

Mullins, who is out to evens (from 1/10) for the title, is considering sending over some raiders to the three-day Perth Festival and has several big guns as possibles for Sandown’s seven-race card which has total prize money of £485,000 up for grabs.

They include Un De Sceaux, who could be set for a rematch with Sprinter Sacre in the Grade 1 Celebration Chase.

Willie Mullins Naas Photo: Patrick McCann 21.02.2016

The trailblazing eight-year-old was beaten 3 1/2 lengths when they met in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, but had previously been very impressive when beating Sire De Grugy in the Clarence House at Ascot.

Outstanding mare Vroum Vroum Mag is set to line-up in the Select Hurdle, which has a first prize of £28,475, while Vautour holds an entry the Grade 2 Oaksey Chase which is also worth £28,475 to the winner.

Valseur Lido also holds an entry in the latter, and third fence Coral Scottish Grand National faller Measureofmydreams could make a quick reappearance in the bet365 Gold Cup which has a first prize of £84,405.

Nicholls has high hopes for Southfield Theatre

It’s clear that Mullins is going all out to win the title, but Nicholls also plans to have runners in all the races at Sandown and believes the outcome of the bet365 Gold Cup could be pivotal to who wins the titanic tussle.

Paul Nicholls

Southfield Theatre is Nicholls’ big hope in the feature race, and the 3m 5f contest has been his long-term target since the start of the season.

Nicholls has won the race three times, including two of the last five runnings, and saddled Just A Par to land the spoils 12 months ago.

He certainly knows what is required to win the race and is bullish about Southfield Theatre’s chances, and is also considering side-stepping the Celebration Chase with 2015 Queen Mother Champion chase winner Dodging Bullets in favour of a crack at the less-competitive Oaksey Chase.

It all makes for a thrilling end to what has been a stellar jumps season, and I fancy Nicholls to scrape home by the narrowest of margins.

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