The trainer said at a media stable visit organised by Cheltenham Racecourse ahead of The Festival (12–15 March): "This time last year we were in a bit of a different place – I had to cancel the media visit because the horses were coughing and we went into the 2012 Festival on the back of having a nightmare.

"This year, things have been totally different. We have had loads of winners, the horses are really well and healthy. We are much happier going into The Festival. It is exciting to have a lot of nice young horses coming along."

Synopsis – Champion Jump trainer for the past seven seasons in Britain (2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12); became the first trainer to accrue more than £4 million in a season in 2007/08; recorded his 2,000th winner at Down Royal on 5 November, 2011, 20 years after taking out his training licence, making him the quickest to reach this landmark figure in Jump racing.

Has sent out 32 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, including enjoying four victories in each of the meeting's showpiece contests – the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Ladbrokes World Hurdle – and he is the fourth most successful trainer of all time at The Festival and the second most successful current trainer.

Won two of the biggest races missing from his glittering CV last season as Rock On Ruby captured the Stan James Champion Hurdle at The Festival and Neptune Collonges clinched the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree in thrilling fashion, enabling the trainer to gain his seventh title in succession.

Big Buck's, the four-time winner of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, is out of action this year because of injury, while other stable stars, such as the great Kauto Star, have retired from racing.

Born – Lydney, Gloucestershire, 17 April, 1962 and grew up in Olveston near Bristol.

Background – son of a policemen, he partnered 119 winners as a Jump jockey between 1980 and 1989, with his biggest British successes coming in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Broadheath (1986) and Playschool (1987), who also captured the 1988 Vincent O'Brien (Irish) Gold Cup with Paul up.

Having struggled to keep his weight down, he retired from race riding after breaking his left leg and, from 1989 to 1991, assisted Devon handler David Barons, trainer of not only Broadheath and Playschool but also Seagram, who won the 1991 Grand National at Aintree.

He took out a licence to train at Manor Farm Stables, owned by Paul Barber, in Ditcheat, Somerset, on 1 November, 1991 and started with just eight horses.

First winner as a trainer – Olveston, owned by his parents, at Hereford, December 20, 1991.


William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle (2006 Noland, 2011 Al Ferof)
Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase (1999 Flagship Uberalles, 2003 Azertyuiop)
Stan James Champion Hurdle (2012 Rock On Ruby)
Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase (2009 Chapoturgeon)
RSA Chase (2006 Star De Mohaison, 2007 Denman)
Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase (1999 Call Equiname, 2004 Azertyuiop, 2008 & 2009 Master Minded)
Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (2010 Sanctuaire)
Ryanair Chase (2005 Thisthatandtother, 2007 Taranis)
Ladbrokes World Hurdle (2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012 Big Buck's)
JCB Triumph Hurdle (2008 Celestial Halo, 2011 Zarkandar)
Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle (2004 Sporazene, 2006 Desert Quest, 2009 American Trilogy)
Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup (1999 See More Business, 2007 & 2009 Kauto Star, 2008 Denman)
CGA Foxhunter Chase (2004 Earthmover, 2005 Sleeping Night)
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase (2004 St Pirran, 2007 Andreas)

Argento Chase (1998 See More Business, 2001 See More Business, 2010 Taranis, 2011 Neptune Collonges)
Ascot Chase (2000 Rockforce, 2008 Kauto Star)
Bet365 Gold Cup (2001 & 2003 Ad Hoc, 2012 Tidal Bay)
Betfair Hurdle (2012 Zarkandar)
Betfair Chase (2006, 2007, 2009 & 2011 Kauto Star, 2012 Silviniaco Conti)
Betfred Bowl (2010 What A Friend, 2000 See More Business)
BGC Partners Liverpool Hurdle (2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012 Big Buck's)
Cleeve Hurdle (2009 & 2012 Big Buck's),
December Gold Cup (2009 & 2010 Poquelin, 2012 Unioniste)
Feltham Novices' Chase (1993 See More Indians, 2003 Strong Flow, 2008 Breedsbreeze)
Galway Plate (2008 Oslot)
Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup (Ireland) (2009 Neptune Collonges)
Hennessy Gold Cup (2003 Strong Flow, 2007 & 2009 Denman) Champion Chase (2007 Taranis, 2008 & 2010 Kauto Star, 2012 Kauto Stone)
John Smith's Grand National (2012 Neptune Collonges)
John Smith's Melling Chase (2001 Fadalko, 2011 Master Minded)
John Durkan Memorial Chase (2008 Noland)
Kerrygold Champion Chase (2008 Twist Magic, 2009 Master Minded)
King George VI Chase (1997 & 1999 See More Business, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 & 2011 Kauto Star)
Lexus Chase (2007 Denmab, 2009 What A Friend, 2012 Tidal Bay)
Long Walk Hurdle (2009, 2010 & 2011 Big Buck's)
Matalan Anniversary 4-y-o Novices' Hurdle (2003 Le Duc, 2011 Zarkandar)
Paddy Power Gold Cup (2012 Al Ferof)
Punchestown Champion Four Year Old Hurdle (2003 Sporazene)
Punchestown Gold Cup (2007 & 2008 Neptune Collonges)
Racing Post Handicap Hurdle (2003 Rigmarole, 2011 Brampour)
Scottish Grand National (1997 Belmont King) International Hurdle (2003 Rigmarole, 2012 Zarkandar)
Tingle Creek Chase (1999 Flagship Uberalles, 2002 Cenkos, 2005 & 2006 Kauto Star, 2007 & 2009 Twist Magic, 2008 & 2010 Master Minded)
Victor Chandler Chase (1999 Call Equiname, 2009 & 2011 Master Minded, 2010 Twist Magic)
Welsh National (2004 Silver Birch, 2005 L'Aventure)

Photograph by Ian Yates.

Paul Nicholls’ youthful squad set for Cheltenham test


What to read next on Eclipse Magazine