No fitness concerns for Paul Nicholls’ biggest name horses

Stable stars Kauto Star and Big Buck’s have not been affected by the coughing problems which have hit Paul Nicholls’ yard.

Nicholls revealed his star pair had so far avoided the illness which has struck at his Ditcheat stables less than a month before the Cheltenham Festival. Kauto Star is due to challenge for another Gold Cup next month, while Big Buck’s defends his World Hurdle crown.

The outbreak has seen the trainer’s pre-Cheltenham media day, scheduled for Wednesday, cancelled, but Nicholls remains confident about the Festival, which gets under way on March 13.

Writing in his Betfair column, Nicholls revealed on Monday night: “In case you’re wondering whether Kauto Star, Big Buck’s, Join Together or Al Ferof have been affected, they haven’t and are all in good form.”

Nicholls realised he had problems when a host of his runners failed to fire at the weekend – he has had just one winner from his last 31 runners.

He added: “I don’t like giving excuses but I do want to keep punters informed and, as our weekend runners came back from the track, a good few of them had dirty noses and were coughing. Nothing serious but it’s got to be monitored and gives us some clues as to why a few of the team didn’t run to their true form, which was plain to see.

“Coughs come and go at yards and there is always the odd horse with one but, in the past few days, we have started noticing more.”

Those horses affected will now be given antibiotics with most expected to return to full training in three to five days, meaning Festival ambitions should not be badly hit.

Nicholls stressed: “We’ve headed into Cheltenham before on so called ‘terrible form’ but end up banging in a few winners at the Sandown meeting and having a great Festival.”