Nicholls happy as Cheltenham looms

Paul Nicholls says the coughing which affected around a dozen horses at his Somerset stables remains under control.

With the Cheltenham Festival just a fortnight away, the health of his string is more important than ever, especially as the trainer is preparing the likes of Big Buck’s for his fourth Ladbrokes World Hurdle and Kauto Star for a third Betfred Gold Cup.

After announcing last week his Betfair Hurdle winner and Champion Hurdle contender Zarkandar was one of the key members of the team to be suffering, Nicholls reports the five-year-old to be firmly back in training now.

“Obviously we’ve had a few little problems and my job is to ensure it’s not being spread,” he said.

“It just seemed to have affected the younger horses – the main ones are OK.

“Zarkandar came back with a cough after Newbury and I banged him full of antibiotics for six days, he had a couple of days walking then cantering but he worked this morning and everything was normal, so it doesn’t take long to get over it.

“When you have a lot of horses in training you are always going to have a few coughs and splutters, and I’m sure we’re no different to anyone else.”

Nicholls has already outlined the Cheltenham targets for his best-known horses and he was able to fill in a few gaps at the unveiling of the handicap weights at Prestbury Park on Wednesday.

He said: “Noland will run in the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase and Crack Away Jack, who came back quite nicely at Ascot the other day, will go for the Byrne Group Plate.

“Cristal Bonus goes for the Jewson and Toubab has a nice weight and will go for the Grand Annual.

“Criqtonic had one run for us at Plumpton and we saved him for the novice handicap (Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase).

“Dodging Bullets could run in the Triumph Hurdle or he could wait for Aintree, I haven’t had a chat with the owners yet.”

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