Plenty of water has flown under the bridge since Broadheath, ridden by one Paul Nicholls, won the Hennessy Gold Cup under 10st 5lb in 1986 but, in the 25 years or so since his retirement from the saddle, at the age of 29, Nicholls has done quite well for himself. I am, of course, talking about former Champion National Hunt Trainer Paul Nicholls, nowadays better known for his ample girth, velvet-collared coat and association with horses such as Kauto Star, Denman and Big Buck’s, to name but three.
Nicholls was crowned Champion National Hunt Trainer for the first time in 2005/06, the first of seven consecutive titles, and headed the prize money list again in 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16. Success at the Cheltenham Festival came even sooner, with Nicholls catapulted into the limelight with the victories of See More Business in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Call Equiname in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Flagship Uberalles in the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 1999. In 2002, Ruby Walsh became stable jockey at Ditcheat, and Nicholls became Leading Trainer at the Cheltenham Festival five more times until the pair parted company in 2013.
Cheltenham winners have been harder to come by in recent years, in the face of increasingly stiff competition from across the Irish Sea, but a quick look at the current standings in the Trainers’ Championship reveals that Nicholls lead the way, a little over £200,000 clear of his nearest rival. Still only 55, the Master of Ditcheat may have plenty more racing history to write just yet.