Paul Nicholls, who has trained at Manor Farm Stables in Ditcheat, Somerset since 1991, enjoyed a highly memorable season in 2018/19. On April 18, 2019, Nicholls reached the milestone of 3,000 National Hunt winners in Britain, when Kupatana won a mares’ novices’ chase at Cheltenham and, nine days later, became champion trainer for the eleventh time.
Formerly stable jockey and assistant trainer to David Barons, Nicholls first rose to prominence as a trainer in his own right when winning the leading trainer award at the Cheltenham Festival in 1999, courtesy of a notable treble in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He had to wait until 2005/06 to become champion trainer for the first time but, following the retirement of the all-conquering Martin Pipe, dominated the trainers’ championship in every year, bar one, up to and including 2015/16.
Nicholls subsequently finished runner-up to his arch rival, Nicky Henderson, in 2016/17 and 2017/18, but saddled 135 winners and earned £3.3 million in prize money in 2018/19. At the end of the season, he said that his eleventh trainers’ title was probably his finest achievement, in light of the dearth of Grade One horses at Ditcheat in recent seasons.
Of course, down the years, Nicholls has been lucky enough to train numerous top-class steeplechasers and hurdlers, including Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Kauto Star and Denman, dual Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Master Mind, four-time Stayers’ Hurdle winner Big Buck’s and Grand National winner Neptune Collonges. Nevertheless, seasonal highlights in 2018/19 included winning the King George VI Chase with Clan Des Obeaux and the Ryanair Chase with Frodon; Nicholls, 57, appears at least as ambitious as ever and now has the record of 15 trainers’ titles, set by Martin Pipe, firmly in his sights.