January 4, 2019 News
Christmas was a memorable one for the Paul Nicholls yard topped by Clan Des Obeaux’s victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
The likes of Dynamite Dollars, Quel Destin and a host of others supplemented that success with more wins as the multiple champion trainer also moved into the top ten of the winningmost trainers in British racing history.
A key part of the Nicholls team is his nephew Harry Derham, who has graduated from jockey to pupil assistant to assistant at the powerful yard. We caught up with him to discuss the festive period and look ahead to the weekend’s action.
The festive period seemed to go particularly well for the yard. What did you make of it?
It went very well. The horses were in fantastic form going into the Christmas and New Year period and we were hoping they would all perform to their best, which they did. There were very few disappointments at all. We had taken a lot of confidence with how the horses had been training and running building up to the period, so it was great to see them run so well.
Paul Nicholls moved into the top ten of trainers in British history in terms of winners. How was that achievement marked?
It’s something Paul’s very proud of. It’s an amazing achievement by him and the people who have been around him so long. Clifford Baker, Paul’s head lad, is a massive part of it too as he’s been there for so many of those winners. It’s a little milestone but, as Paul says, there’s no point letting up because we all want to get to the next one.
And what is it like to work with the ten-time champion trainer?
He’s very focused. We all have our roles and we get on with it. It’s very professional on that front and everyone works very hard. I’d like to think our standard of horse care and training is always up to a very high level.
Clan Des Obeaux was your star performer at Christmas. What did you make of his King George win and how has he been since the win?
I thought it was by far a career best. It was something he’s been building up to for a long time and, you have to remember, he’s only just turned seven. He’s a young horse and Paul’s always thought there were big races in him. I don’t think anything he has done has surprised Paul. He’s come out of the race really well and cantered since. Whether he will run between now and Cheltenham is something for Paul and the owners to decide, but the main thing is he’s fine and on an upward curve.
Politologue finished fourth in the King George and holds an entry in the Clarence House Chase over two miles at Ascot. Is he likely to go there next?
It’s more likely, I would suggest, that he’ll go for the Ascot Chase in the middle on next month. He was entered in the Clarence House as it’s massive prize-money for not many runners and we wanted to give him the option. He didn’t get home in the King George but he ran with a huge amount of credit and there were plenty of good horses behind him.
Quel Destin stepped up yet again to win the Coral Finale Hurdle at Chepstow. How impressed have you been with his progress this season?
He’s an absolute pleasure to have around. He’s a hard, sound horse and done nothing but improve through his own doing and attitude. He does everything asked of him. He’s not a particularly good work horse and only ever just does enough. I think he’s only of those horses who’ll only give as much as you ask.
Dynamite Dollars is another inmate who has taken big steps forward adding the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase to his win in the Henry VIII Chase. Has his progressed surprised you?
His improvement to us has not been a surprise at all. He’s a big, gorgeous horse and was never going to be much of a hurdler. We knew he was going to take a marked step up over fences because he’s such a good jumper. As he’s got stronger and filled his frame then we’ve been able to train him harder and that’s allowed him to improve too. He’s always been a horse Paul has held in high regard but we couldn’t train him hard until now because he had such a big frame. He’s becoming a man now and he’s getting so much better.
Grand Sancy and Southfield Stone run for the stable in the Tolworth Hurdle. How do you rate their chances?
We prepped them all week to both run and they both worked nicely earlier this week and have come out of that in good order. It’s a Grade 1 and worth good money so as they’re in top order they deserve to take their chances. We like them both.
And, finally, the yard traditionally goes quiet after this weekend. Are you looking to make a big impact before the shutdown?
We’ve got a good few runners this weekend at Sandown and Wincanton and then we’ll be a lot quieter until the end of the month really. The vast majority of the horses had their flu jabs this week and historically January is one of Paul’s quietest. We like to think that if we give them a break now they thank us for that in March and April. We’ll be looking to go out with a bang this weekend before that.