4/6/2016 9:21:25 AM
Written by Adam Morgan.
First came the Romans, then the Vikings, and now in 2016 Paul Nicholls is looking accross the Irish Sea as the Willie Mullins invasion depends upon Aintree in an attempt to rip away the treasured trainers’ championship currently in the possession of the Ditcheat handler.
I can only imagine Nicholls is stood looking at the Closutton battalions making their way to Merseyside in the same way as the souls of the colonised world once did when the sails of ships appeared upon the horizon.
With barely £150,000 between the pair Nicholls' lead could have evaporated by late Thursday afternoon as Mullins unleashes the first wave of his army of stable stars on Day 1.
Paul Nicholls may be many things however a white flag waiver he is not and surely the eternal optimist has a few surprises up his sleeve as he attempts to withstand the salmon pink and green onslaught.
The generous guy Mullins is, he gives Nicholls a free shot in the first on Thursday but i doubt it will affect the standings too much and the first big head to head comes in the 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle when the Triumph Hurdle 2-3-4.... Apples Jade, Footpad and Lets Dance... Go for Mullins against Nicholls' Fred Winter 1-2 Diego Du Charmil and Romain De Senam.
They all have the impressive Triumph hurdle winner Ivanovich Gorbatov to beat however if the rain continues to fall i can easily see improvement from both Apples Jade and Footpad to take the £45,000 winners cheque back to Closutton.
A further £84,405 is on offer for the winner in the Betfred Bowl and Mullins has another two big guns to fire for this with Gold Cup 2nd and 3rd Djakadam and Don Poli attempting to see off the favourite Cue Card who looks to make amends for his Cheltenham tumble. Saphir Du Rheu represents Ditcheat but has been out of sorts all season and its hard to see him figuring in the finish here.
Out comes Annie Power to pick up £112,540 in the Aintree Hurdle with stablemate Nichols Canyon primed to follow the super mare home to pick up more prize money with Paul Nicholls' best chance of a winner coming in the foxhunters chase which follows with Pacha Du Polder who tuned up for this nicely under Victoria Pendleton at Cheltenham.
Elsewhere on Thursday Paul Nicholls will be hoping Solar Impulse can back up his Grand Annual victory in the Red Rum chase and Willie Mullins runs Augusta Kate back amongst her own sex in the mares’ bumper to round things off.
Friday kicks off with potentially Paul Nicholls best chance on Day 2 with Cheltenham winner Ibis Du Rheu attempting to do the double that isn't beyond his reach and has been achieved in the past by the likes of Attaglance.
The rest of Day 2 could see Willie Mullins domination once again. Limini should start the bandwagon rolling in the Top Novices' hurdle however Le Prezien could nick place money for Nicholls if coming under orders.
Shaneshill could easily reverse the placings with Blacklion on a sharper track with further emphasis on speed to put another £56,000 in the kitty whilst in Friday's feature Vautour, Vroom Vroom Mag and Un De Sceaux are all entered for WP Mullins with a lonely Vibrato Valtat clearly up against it for Ditcheat.
Turbon and Ballycasey lead the Closutton Topham charge whilst there is a combined 15 entries to one in favour of Mullins in the Sefton Novices hurdle and the Champion bumper with Nicholls hoping one or two of his home rivals do him a favour to dent the onslaught.
We move onto Saturday and National day which could see an exhibition from three superstars, Thistlecrack and the Mullins pair of Yorkhill and Douvan on the undercard before we move onto the main event and the £1 million prize on offer in the worlds most famous horse race.
The importance this race could play in deciding the trainers title couldn’t be emphasised more by the fact Nicholls has six engaged with Mullins lining up three in an attempt to secure every penny of the wealth of prize money on offer.
Nicholls secured the trainers title by landing this race with Neptune Collonges the last time the title looked to be slipping out of his grasp and he attempts to repeat history here with another grade 1 star in Silviniaco Conti. The two time King George winner looked reborn at Aintree in blinkers last time out and is second favourite here to land the spoils.
Of the remainder of the Nicholls squad, Unioniste attempts the national course once again and any cut in the ground improves his chances of improving his placing with Wonderful Charm, Black Thunder and Just a Par all unlikely winners but more than capable of picking up valuable place money.
Nicholls' desire to have all his horses pick up prize money is shown in its best light with the booking of Andrew Thornton for the ride on Rocky Creek. The ten year old who has had his stamina troubles in the past is surely going to be hunted round by this experienced horseman to make sure he finishes off his race at the third time of asking over the trip.
For Willie Mullins Boston Bob is the mount of Ruby Walsh whilst he saddles a pair of Gold Cup runner up's in On His Own and Sir Des Champs who could both be well treated if taking to the challenge the National course presents.
It's looking like it's going to have to be a case of history repeating itself for Paul Nicholls to perform the great escape and scoop the £1 million prize but if anyone is to outfox the wiley master of Colsutton at the last minute then the genius of Ditcheat is surely the only man who can. Either way we're in for a fantastic three days of exciting action.