Nicholls sets sights on Gold Cup next with Bravemansgame
Having been lukewarm on the idea of a Cheltenham challenge when his new stable star won the Charlie Hall Chase earlier in the season, the manner of his success when providing the champion trainer with a 13th win in the Christmas showpiece has forced a rethink.
He had to overcome more than three miles, eight rivals and 18 fences, too, as L’Homme Presse, backed into favouritism, repeatedly jumped out to his left, not really doing Bravemansgame any favours.
Harry Cobden was keen to give his mount space on the outside and it was not until they turned into the straight that he began to move up alongside L’Homme Presse, with two of last season’s leading novices fighting out the finish.
Bravemansgame began to assert running to the final fence and while both jumped it well, L’Homme Presse landed steep, unshipping Charlie Deutsch, allowing him the 11-4 winner come home 14 lengths clear of Royale Pagaille, a stablemate of L’Homme Presse.
“It was a hell of a race. They went a good gallop and old Frodon gave them a good lead. He stayed on strong then and showed his strengths. He is just a maturing horse and we have trained him for today,” said Nicholls.
“We will go straight to Cheltenham now and we won’t run him before the Gold Cup. Better ground helps him travel better than he did today, but he dug deep and stayed on. The other horse was a little unfortunate to lose his pilot, but he was beaten by then.
“We were very confident. Some of those bad runs in the spring you couldn’t judge him on as ours weren’t right. When he is right he is a very good horse. We knew it was him at his best today.”
Nicholls – whose Kempton roll of honour includes five memorable triumphs with dual Gold Cup hero Kauto Star – feels the stamina Bravemansgame showed close home will stand him in good stead come March, if the ground is suitable.
Bookmaker reaction regarding the Gold Cup was positive, with Betfair and Paddy Power making him 7-1 from 20-1 while Coral halved his price to 10-1.
He needs to be fresh. We have nothing to lose running him at Cheltenham, but he won’t run before
“I loved the way he stayed on as all the way down the back he didn’t have a great passage as L’Homme Presse kept jumping across him and I would have liked to have seen it go a bit more fluent, but he came hard on the bridle and stayed on well,” Nicholls said.
“It is just fantastic. You set out to try and win these races and it is just brilliant, but you have got to have the right horse. He is a good horse but he has not been the easiest to train. We learned a few lessons about him last season but we have got him right now.
“He needs to be fresh. We have nothing to lose running him at Cheltenham, but he won’t run before. Nice ground will suit him well. It was great to see him stay on strong today.
“I was confident as I thought the track would suit him well.”
A meeting with L’Homme Presse is surely on the cards in the future and while Nicholls feels Cheltenham may suit that rival more, his horse was on top when he departed at the last.
“L’Homme Presse was obviously going to be a danger and he is obviously going to be a very good horse and he won’t be far away in the Gold Cup where going left-handed will probably suit him better. But we got on top of him when he departed at the last and Bravemansgame galloped on to win so it is good form,” said Nicholls.
“I’m lucky enough to have the horses good enough to do it and the capability of a team that is good enough to get them right on the day.
“Horses like this find you rather than the other way. We have been lucky and we have some other lovely young horses at home. It is fantastic and I feel very lucky.
“You never dream of days like this and once you have a taste of it you never want it to go away. Last season he would never be able to do that (go three times up the hill on the gallops) now he cruises up it. Horses like that just reach that maturity. When he was five when he went to Cheltenham he was nowhere near the best physically but he is getting there.”
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