Cheltenham Festival: Nicholls’ Aux Ptits Soins shines in first British race

James Toney reflects on Aux Ptits Soins triumph in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenaham Festival on Wednesday

The Tipster
By The Tipster
Trainer Paul Nicholls Photo: Racingfotos.com

You might struggle to say it or spell it but remember the name because French import Aux Ptits Soins is set to become a Cheltenham Festival star.

Trainer Paul Nicholls landed one of the meeting’s most competitive handicaps as the lightly-raced horse, in only his third start and first race in Britain, delivered at odds of 9/1 in the Coral Cup.

Enhanced odds: Get 12/1 on Vautour to win the JLT Novices’ Chase

Owner John Hales has tasted Festival success with One Man and Azertyuiop and famously won the most dramatic Grand National in recent memory with Neptune Collonges.

But he believes the inexperienced Aux Ptits Soins could deliver the one trophy he wants more than any other. Problems with his jumping can be corrected but no-one who saw him power up Cheltenham’s famous hill can doubt he’s got the heart or desire, the magical ingredients required for success.

“I have bought this horse for the Gold Cup. I have never won it but this is the one for it maybe in two or three years’ time,” said Hales.

“Every time you get a winner here it just gets sweeter and sweeter. I have never seen a horse do so many things wrong in a race yet still win around here. His jumping is electric but not always spot on yet and he’ll only improve with experience.

“I always felt he deserved to be here and had the potential to win. I think the plan will be one more hurdle race at Aintree and then we’ll take him chasing, with an eye on the Gold Cup in the future. We are really excited about him and what we might do.”

Nicholls is far too canny to get carried away but admitted jockey Nick Scholfield, who has schooled him at his Ditcheat stable, had described him as the ‘best horse he has sat on’.

“He’s obviously very good, I thought he might be too inexperienced,” he said.

“Plenty times I’ve brought over a French horse with a really big reputation that has let us down, so I’m thrilled with what he’s just done and we’re obviously excited to have him.”

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Meanwhile, Nicholls is brimming with confidence as he bids to claim Cheltenham’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle for the fifth time on Wednesday.

With six and three wins between them, Irish trainer Willie Mullins and Nicholls have won more than half of the races at this year’s Festival.

And the Ditcheat trainer believes Saphir Du Rheu and Zarkandar – who are disputing market favouritism – are in the shape to deliver more success.

“Zarkandar has had a great season. We have kept him fresh for Cheltenham this year on purpose as he is so much better when fresh and I think he has a fantastic chance,” said Nicholls, who won four straight World Hurdles with the legendary Big Buck’s.

Nicky Henderson also boasts two live hopes for the race with Whisper and Blue Fashion leading the charge for his Seven Barrows stable while Gigginstown House Stud hope Lieutenant Colonel leads a seven-strong Irish assault on Wednesday’s showpiece race.

Yesterday’s winning selections included 5/1 and 2/1 winners Windsor Park and Don Poli.

Selections: 1.30 Vautour @ 12/1*, 2.05 Big Easy @ 10/1, 2.40 Don Cossack @ 9/2, 3.20 Whisper @ 9/1, 4.00 Attaglance @ 10/1, 4.40 Champagne James @ 9/1

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