Watch an hour of "Inside Ditcheat" in two parts presented by Nick Lightfoot plus read Paul Nicholls' latest plans for his leading lights:
By Racinguk.com staff
Replacing the likes of Kauto Star and Denman was never going to be easy for Paul Nicholls but with an exciting crop of horses at his disposal, this could be the season to achieve it.
Having undergone a period of transition since the retirement of his established Grade One performers, the Ditcheat handler now looks to have a squad capable of becoming the new stars of Manor Farm Stables.
Nicholls said: "We have not got an obvious King George or Gold Cup horse in there, but it is an exciting team. They are really nice horses for the future."
He went on: "We might have lacked a few Grade One winners last season, but we had a great season with our best total of 171 winners and taking the trainers' championship right to the wire.
"I would love to train my 3,000th winner and we are less than two hundred away from it. That is the main target I would like to achieve."
The two-mile chase division is one in which Nicholls has excelled in the past, and in Politologue he could have another destined for the top.
He said: "He is very nice and had a good season last season. He was unfortunate not to win a Grade One at Aintree. It was just one of those things at Aintree and we were lucky to have the back-up we did in the race with San Benedeto winning. He seems in really good order at home.
"He will start off in the Haldon Gold Cup and we will then make a plan, whether we stick at two miles or go back up to two and a half. He is a very smart horse and has progressed physically.
"He jumps so well and that is a big part of his armoury. Over two and a half we were holding on to him a bit more and not using his jumping. He would be one I'm really excited about as he was our leading novice chaser last season."
If there is one area where the 10-times champion trainer contains plenty of strength and depth it is his team of novice chasers for the season.
Nicholls said: "Obviously he was a nice horse last year and he did very well. He won his bumper, then he won his first novice hurdle. We ran him at Cheltenham in November and it didn't work out, but he ran really well in the Betfair and was only beaten three-quarters of a length.
"He didn't make Cheltenham (in March) as he had a minor setback, but he is now fine. He will make his chasing debut at Cheltenham on Friday, all being well. I hope he will be a really nice novice chaser.
"I think we start over the two, but he will probably get a little bit further. He looks a sound jumper and has been jumping nicely at home."
At the other end of the distance scale, Nicholls has high hopes that Grade One-winning hurdler Adrien Du Pont will be a force to be reckoned with over staying trips.
He said: "Adrien Du Pont was obviously a high-class juvenile hurdler and won a Grade One the season before last.
"He was a typical four-year-old in that he found his second season tough, but he ran a good race in a Grade One at Auteuil.
"He started life well over fences at Fontwell. He jumped brilliantly there, but he has always been a good jumper. It was good ground that day and he wouldn't want a bog. He will go for the Rising Stars at Wincanton next, but hopefully he will make a nice three-mile chaser."
The talented Cliffs Of Dover is not expected to return from injury until Christmas time, but Nicholls has three juveniles who could make an impact over the smaller obstacles and step up to take centre stage.
"Birds Of Prey and Act Of Valour are two nice juveniles," he said. "Act Of Valour was rated 97 on the Flat. He jumps very nicely at home and will be one to run this side of Christmas, he is a nice type of horse to have in that division.
"Birds Of Prey won his last two for John Oxx and looks another useful one to go to war with. Sao is another nice juvenile. He is closely related to Frodon and he won a juvenile hurdle in France on his last start. He looks a big, strong horse."
FIVE OTHERS TO NOTE AT DITCHEAT FOR THIS SEASON:
"He is a bit of a dark horse, who was with Rebecca Curtis. He won a few hurdles and won his one start over fences last year and beat Might Bite, who as we know did well. He got a small leg injury, we had him in the summer and started with him on September 1. He won't be ready to run until around Christmas time and we won't rush him. He is a nice horse to go to war with and should be a good three-mile chaser. If things go the right way, he could be a National horse."
"He has had two runs over fences. The one at Newton Abbot at the back-end was to teach him, then he ran at Market Rasen on Saturday and beat a horse rated 133 hard held by 22 lengths. We are really pleased with him and he is only five so hopefully there is lots of progression in him. He lost his way a little bit in the spring, but he was a big, weak horse. He didn't quite see his races out, but he is much stronger now. He will probably head for the Henry VIII now at Sandown. I have a slight suspicion he is better going right-handed."
"He is a really nice horse and had a wind operation in the summer. He struggled with his breathing, but he still did quite well. He was good winning at Newbury and he ran very well when he was just beaten by Whisper at Cheltenham. He will probably go up to the Colin Parker at Carlisle and we will go from there. Hopefully he will get three miles, but he is still only a five-year-old."
"He is a very nice horse and won well first time out. It didn't go to plan last time, but he did strike into himself and he will be off until Christmas. He was lucky as it was only millimetres from a severe injury. He will have three quiet weeks now. I think a lot of him and there is plenty more to come from him. He wants better ground and we are looking at having him right for the major meetings later on in the season."
"He is a lovely big horse. He won his point-to-point then he won for us first time at Ascot and was only beaten a head back there on his final start. He is a big, scopey horse and will jump fences. He will start over two and a half or two miles six on a nice, big, galloping track and we will then go from there. He might go to Newbury next month and start there."