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Revealed: Five Nicholls handicappers’ likely Cheltenham targets

| 25.02.2015

Paul Nicholls has laid out the likely Cheltenham Festival handicap targets for five of his Ditcheat delegation in a recent stable tour.

No fewer than three – Aux Ptits Soins, Calipto and Le Mercurey – now top the markets for their intended assignments.

News.ladbrokes.com ponder their chances below.

Aux Ptits Soins to win Coral Cup @ 10/1

“Almost certain to run in the Coral Cup” according to Nicholls, the five year-old has yet to run in the United Kingdom but was twice a scorer over hurdles in France.

Two of the first three to chase him home in his most recent victory scored on their next run and a mark of 139 looks fair if not a handicap snip.

Bouvreuil to win Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle @ 16/1

Nicholls landed the Triumph Hurdle consolation with a lightly-raced French import in Sanctuaire in 2010.

That one had beaten Grand Crus on his sole previous run in Blighty and while this four-year-old has yet to score in two races on this side of the Channel he hasn’t performed without promise.

Most recently an 11l fourth to Supreme Novices Hurdle fancy Qewy, it was the second time in as many outings where he was bang in contention only to empty rapidly in the closing stages.

Calipto to win County Hurdle @ 10/1

The 2014 Triumph Hurdle silver medallist was fourth in the Betfair Hurdle on his first run back and it can be rated a likeable run under the circumstances.

Finishing strongly having given the front runners too much rope, he wouldn’t be the first horse to find improvement for his first run back after a breathing operation.

Caid du Berlais to win Festival Plate @ 16/1

The Paddy Power winner has failed to scale the same heights since that November success but still rates a fair bet in the race Nicholls suggests he “will almost certainly run in”.

His trainer believes a big weight won’t hold him back and he has festival handicap form in abundance, after finishing second in the 2013 Fred Winter and third in the Martin Pipe the following year.

Le Mercurey to win Martin Pipe Conditionals Handicap Hurdle @ 10/1

The master of Ditcheat sent out Salubrious to score in the boys race in 2013 and stables the current favourite for this year’s renewal, a horse he describes as “the future for us” when he tackles fences.

He caught many an eye when not given a hard time in finishing third behind Baradari last time out.

Greatwood Hurdle winner and subsequent conqueror of Jollyallan and Bristol De Mai Garde Le Victoire was behind him on that occasion too.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Author

Thomas Reynolds