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Preview of Paul Nicholls' Cheltenham Festival Team

Wednesday 2nd March 2016
Paul Nicholls

We dig deeper into Paul Nicholls' Cheltenham Festival squad, and pick out a plethora of runners that could be fighting it out for silverware, while also selecting our best bet from the Ditcheat yard, and a potential dark horse.

Modus - Supreme Novices' Hurdle or County Hurdle
Supreme Novices' Hurdle - 33/1 with Paddy Power
County Hurdle - 16/1 with Betfred

Second in the 2015 Champion Bumper, Modus impressed on his opening two starts over timber, but he never held a positive position when finishing down the field in the Betfair Hurdle, and while he is entered for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, he could be an eye-catching runner off 139 in the County Hurdle.

Le Mercurey - UBS Handicap Chase or RSA Chase
UBS Handicap Chase - 20/1 with bet365
RSA Chase - 50/1 with BetVictor

Shaped with real promise when third in the Reynoldstown Novices' Chase, but that run may have ruined his handicap mark, so could line up in the RSA Chase, and if rain were to hit Prestbury Park in the lead-up to the race then could be a lively rag in what is an intriguing contest.

Old Guard - Champion Hurdle
20/1 with BetVictor

A real improver this term, with all of his three wins coming at Cheltenham, but he was outclassed in the Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day, and while a return to GL50 will see the best of him, he must lack the quality to win a Champion Hurdle, even in the absence of the reigning champion.

Tara Point - Mares' Hurdle
20/1 with Betfred

Unbeaten in the mares' division, and her third career win saw her bag a Listed event at Taunton, so she could be one of the biggest dangers to Vroum Vroum Mag, but Nicholls is 50/50 on whether she will line up, so hold off on any ante-post bets.

Vicente - National Hunt Chase
20/1 with bet365

His jumping has improved immeasurably with experience, and with winning form around Cheltenham he could be a lively contender at 20/1 with bet365, and with top amateur Will Biddick set to take the ride then this proven stayer has to come into calculations.

Bouvreuil - Festival Novices' Handicap Chase
16/1 with William Hill

Outclassed in Grade 2 company at Doncaster last time out, but if he can repeat the effort that saw him beat subsequent Grade 2 winner Vyta Du Roc two starts ago then he could be an interesting contender for the Festival Novices' Handicap Chase, which concludes day one.

Politologue - Coral Cup
12/1 with Paddy Power

Purchased with chasing in mind, Politologue's second to Barters Hill in the Challow Novices' Hurdle is top form, and off a mark of 142 he is very eye-catching for the Coral Cup, but the bookmakers aren't taking too many chances on him and the current 12/1 available with Paddy Power is far too short.

Bauolet Delaroque - Coral Cup
20/1 with Betfred

An improving novice hurdler, who downed Value At Risk with aplomb at Huntingdon last time out, but the hustle and bustle of this competitive handicap could well find him out, while a mark of 140 could well just be out of his capabilities in the early career of this five-year-old.

Dodging Bullets - Queen Mother Champion Chase
12/1 with Paddy Power

Thrashed by Top Gamble on his comeback run in the Game Spirit Chase, Dodging Bullets is sure to come on significantly for that run, but the reigning champion will struggle to retain his crown as looks miles behind red-hot favourite Un De Sceaux.

Sire Collonges - Cross Country Chase
10/1 with BetVictor

Sire Collonges may benefit from the Cross Country Chase not being a handicap this term, but it's hard to see him reversing his recent form with Josies Orders, however, he could grab another place in what is a race devoid of real depth.

Diego Du Charmil - Fred Winter
12/1 with Ladbrokes

A three-race maiden over timber, Nicholls' young recruit is a prominent figure in the betting for the Fred Winter, but it's extremely hard to gauge his ability, and while a mark of 133 could prove attractive for the French recruit, it's not one that I can get too excited about.

Arpege D'Alene - Pertemps Final
14/1 with Betfred

A return to hurdles saw him ignite back into form with a taking Chepstow success, and he was duly slashed to a best-priced 14/1 with Betfred for the Pertemps Final, so if he can build on that effort then he could be a primary challenger for this prize.

Warriors Tale - Pertemps Final
20/1 with Ladbrokes

Second to Cup Final at Musselburgh, who is as short as 7/1 for the Pertemps, Warriors Tale could well land a blow at 20/1, and with a slight drop in trip likely to aid his chances then he could be on the vicinity in this trappy betting contest.

Vibrato Valtat - Ryanair Chase
12/1 with Sky Bet

Outclassed in the Clarence House Chase over two miles last time out, Vibrato Valtat is an interesting runner in the Ryanair Chase, but while this race is lacking a quality performer and is wide open, he could struggle to record his second win of the campaign.

Saphir Du Rheu - World Hurdle
12/1 with Betfair

Beaten 30 lengths by Thistlecrack in the Long Walk Hurdle on his last start, Saphir Du Rheu is sure to be seen in a better light at Cheltenham, but it's hard to see him going one better than last season's second in the World Hurdle, and he surely can't turn the tables on the aforementioned Thistlecrack, who looks a cut above his staying rivals this term.

Aux Ptits Soins - World Hurdle
16/1 with Betfred

Still unbeaten over hurdles, Aux Ptits Soins propelled into the limelight last season with a fine win in the Coral Cup, but it's going to be a tough ask to win the World Hurdle on his first start of the season, and the lack of match practice could see him falter, however, he is far more attractive bet than the Saphir Du Rheu in the race.

Art Mauresque - Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate
20/1 with Paddy Power

He has performed admirably in his three runs at Cheltenham this season, but if he takes his chance in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate on day three of the Cheltenham Festival, then decent ground will be a must if he is to figure at all.

Connetable - Triumph Hurdle
12/1 with Paddy Power

A fine winner of the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown Park last month, Connetable has to be a major player in the Triumph Hurdle market, as he showed tremendous battling qualities to get the better of Rayvin Black, and with that form being franked then he could be one of many leading contenders Nicholls has in the four-year-old Grade 1.

Frodon - Triumph Hurdle or Fred Winter
Triumph Hurdle - 20/1 with Sky Bet
Fred Winter - 16/1 with Betfred

His impressive win over Fixe Le Kap at Haydock saw him slashed in the betting for the Triumph Hurdle, but while Nicholls looks destined to run him in the Triumph Hurdle, it would be great to see him taking his chance in the Fred Winter, and with Harry Cobden taking weight off he could run a huge race in that competitive event.

Zubayr - Triumph Hurdle
6/1 with BetVictor

Zarkandar won the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle before landing the Triumph Hurdle and Zubayr will aim to emulate that special double, and he oozed class at the weekend when starring at Kempton Park, and if open to improvement sets the standard in the curtain-raiser for the final day of the Cheltenham Festival on March 18.

All Yours - County Hurdle
20/1 with Betfred

A Grade One-winning juvenile, All Yours has not been seen since finishing fifth in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton in November, but he showed he enjoys Cheltenham having finished fifth in the Fred Winter last season, and off a mark of 147 he could outrun his 20/1 odds with Betfred for the County Hurdle, with good ground aiding his chances.

Qualando - Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle
12/1 with Paddy Power

Last season's Fred Winter winner, Qualando was slashed in the betting following a decent run at Taunton, but while the Nicholls team won this race in 2013, they may struggle to regain the title with this horse who is awfully short for what is one of the most competitive races of the entire festival.

Best Bet
Vicente - National Hunt Chase
20/1 win NRNB with bet365

Already a winner at Cheltenham over three miles, Vicente looks to stand a terrific chance in the National Hunt Chase on day one of the Cheltenham Festival, as he would have relished a break off the track, and with Black Hercules not taking his chance in this race then it has become wide open. Will Biddick will be an able pilot, and providing his jumping stays intact then he is set to run a huge race and is our best bet from Nicholls' bumper entries.

Dark Horse
Bouvreuil - Festival Novices' Handicap Chase
16/1 win with William Hill

He was well beaten on his last start over fences, but Bouvreuil will enjoy a step up in trip in the Festival Novices' Handicap Chase, which concludes day one, and if he can repeat the performance that saw him beat subsequent Grade 2 winner Vyta Du Roc then he could be a key figure in what is a competitive end to the opening day.

Paul Nicholls Specials

Paul Nicholls is 25/1 with Paddy Power to be crowned Top Cheltenham Festival Trainer for 2016, while he is an attractive 4/1 with the same firm in the betting without Willie Mullins.

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