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Worried Nicholls cancels Cheltenham media day

Several of trainer Paul Nicholls’ horses have started coughing, just three weeks before the beginning of this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

Trainer Paul Nicholls with his Champion Hurdle hopeful Zarkandar.
Trainer Paul Nicholls with his Champion Hurdle hopeful Zarkandar.
Image: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Press Association Images

CHAMPION TRAINER Paul Nicholls has cancelled a pre-Cheltenham media day amid concerns about several of his horses’ health.

The famous Ditcheat yard had an unusual dip in form over the weekend, with Champion Hurdle hopeful Zarkandar the only winner from 31 runners saddled since Friday.

Nicholls revealed today that several of his horses have been coughing and, with this year’s Festival just over three weeks away, the trainer has cancelled his planned media engagements to concentrate on getting his stable back to full strength.

“It is fairly obvious that we had a moderate weekend with only one winner from 31,” Nicholls wrote in his Betfair blog. “We have several horses coughing and not running to their potential.

As you may have already read elsewhere, I’ve had to cancel my Cheltenham media day this week due to this. In these circumstances we do not feel it is appropriate to invite the media on Wednesday; I’m sure everyone understands my horses and owners must come first at this stage.

Nicholls’ Cheltenham team is expected to include three-time World Hurdle winner Big Buck’s and dual Gold Cup champion Kauto Star, as well as Al Ferof, winner of the Supreme Novice Hurdle last year.

He is currently 5/2 third-favourite to finish as the Festival’s top trainer, behind Willie Mullins (5/4) and Nicky Henderson (9/4).

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