Sickness scare for Nicholls
TRAINER Paul Nicholls has admitted to holding concerns over some of his stable as he yielded little success over the weekend and revealed that some of his horses are under the weather.
The trainer, who will have a formidable team set for next month's Cheltenham Festival, did report that Kauto Star was not affected. However, Friday's impressive Betfair Hurdle winner Zarkandar at Newbury wasn't 100 per cent when winning.
Nicholls said last night: "We have had only one winner in our last 31 runners -- not a particularly good stat to read. I don't like giving excuses, but I do want to keep punters informed and as our weekend's runners came back from the track, a good few of them had dirty noses and were coughing.
The champion trainer described it as "nothing serious", but with just three weeks until the Festival gets under way, the situation is clearly far from ideal.
Nicholls was forced to cancel his annual press open day at Ditcheat, which was scheduled for tomorrow.
"We have several horses coughing and my first priority is to the owners in my yard. It is my duty to leave no stone unturned now as we prepare for the last three weeks before the Festival.
"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 is 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."
Nicholls continued: "The horses who have come back with dirty noses and coughs will get antibiotics. Depending on the horse it can be three to five days before they are back in full training.
"Ourselves and other yards are no strangers to this. We've headed into Cheltenham before on so called 'terrible form', but end up banging in a few winners and having a great Festival."
Looking to the positives, Nicholls is now relishing a clash with Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle as Zarkandar won on Friday when under a cloud.
"The one highlight of last week was Zarkandar's performance in the Betfair Hurdle. Especially as he was one who came back from Newbury with a filthy nose and cough.
"Add that to the fact the race was not run at a pace to suit, his performance has me even more excited about his chances come the Festival."
Nicholls also added that Kauto Star and Big Buck's "haven't been affected" and "are all in good form".