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Nicholls full of confidence in Bravemansgame

Brasvemansgame Brasvemansgame
© Photo Healy Racing

Paul Nicholls is increasingly bullish about the chances of Bravemansgame in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Owned by John Dance and Bryan Drew, the eight-year-old took the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day with a degree of ease, beating Royale Pagaille by 14 lengths.

It was his second success of the season, having sauntered to another easy victory in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby in October.

Though he has yet to tackle the extended three-and-a-quarter-mile test the Gold Cup presents, the champion trainer is happy to keep him under wraps until March 17.

“He is fine. We think he has a lovely chance,” Nicholls said.

“He is unbeaten this year, a different horse to last year. He is big and strong and well — a lovely chance he’s got.”

A best-priced 9-1 for the Gold Cup, which Nicholls has won on four occasions — including saddling the first three home in 2008 — Bravemansgame has yet to prove he has the stamina for this trip.

On his sole visit to Cheltenham, he finished third to Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs in 2021.

Nicholls is left non-plussed by the naysayers. He said: “No one knows if he will stay three miles two (furlongs), as he has never been three-two.

“All I know he has won a King George and horses have got to stay to win a King George, and plenty of mine who have won a King George have won a Gold Cup.

“He won a point-to-point when he was four. You just take no notice of criticism and know your own thoughts.

“He wasn’t right last year. He ran at Cheltenham and he was third in that, but that was when he was a five-year-old. He was a young horse then and is twice the horse he was. He has strengthened up and is totally different.”

Bravemansgame travelled supremely well under Harry Cobden at Kempton and was not stopping at the end of the race.

Nicholls believes he will put it up to last year’s Gold Cup winner, the Henry de Bromhead-trained A Plus Tard and Willie Mullins’ Galopin Des Champs, who is the current favourite, having landed the John Durkan Memorial at Punchestown before Christmas.

Nicholls added: “He got the trip beautifully at Kempton. What I like about him, if the ground is half-decent, he has got enough pace to travel and he jumped well. He can just save and turn in, then I think he has got a lovely chance.

“I’m very happy with his prep and I think we are doing the right thing by not running him. He is very fresh and very fit.

“He will go on anything, but hopefully on Gold Cup day, unless we get torrent of rain, on that track you usually get good to soft, which will be perfect.

“It is an open race. The short-priced favourite is short enough, because of where he is trained. He has done well, but is short enough probably. But he’s the one we all have to aim at.

“It’s a Gold Cup and there are lots of good horses in the race, but it is an open contest. The waters were muddied a bit on Saturday (Cotswold Chase) and it is an interesting old race you know, but we are looking forward to it.”