Paul Nicholls extended his advantage at the top of the British trainers’ championship with a double at Ascot’s Jumps season finale on Sunday.
The defending champion, who leads nearest rival Nicky Henderson by around £160,000 in prize money won this campaign, sent out six runners and saw Chavez and Danny Kirwan return victorious under stable jockey Harry Cobden.
Chavez (13/8 favourite) raced to an easy success in the Peter O’Sullevan 2022 Lambourn Open Day Maiden Hurdle, getting off the mark over obstacles at the third attempt, while Danny Kirwan produced a fine round of jumping to beat Champagne Court to the £9,000 winning prize in the Soil Science Handicap Chase.
Nicholls could need the help of every pound he can muster with Irish maestro Willie Mullins revealing this week he is “weighing up” a serious shot at the British title after plundering 10 races at the Cheltenham Festival and £1,273,783 in winnings.
That leaves Mullins just over £600,000 behind the Ditcheat handler and a successful raid at Aintree could bring him well into contention.
Cheltenham proved disappointing for Nicholls, pulling Bravemansgame out of the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the last moment due to the ground, while his other main contenders – Stage Star and Bob and Co – failed to finish.
Reflecting on the trainers title, Cobden joked: “Never mind his kitty, what about mine?!
Speaking to Sky Sports Racing, he added: “It’s great and fingers crossed we can win another championship.
British Jumps trainers’ championship
“Normally we come out of Cheltenham £200,000-£300,000 behind and, although we probably don’t have the horse that we once had, we came out this year £200,000 in front.
“We’ve got a great team going to Aintree. I’m not saying we’ve got lots of quality but we’ve got lots going there with a chance.”
On Danny Kirwan’s win, Cobden said: “He’s very ground dependant and anything other than good affects his wind. Today he was a pleasure to ride and jumped from fence to fence.
“He was a bit long two out when I thought there was an extra one there but the horse knew better. He’s won nicely.”
Golden Boy gives Moore a double on the day
Gary Moore was also at the double at Ascot as Golden Boy Grey recorded his third victory over fences.
The six-year-old, who is yet to finish outside of the top two in six starts this season, beat Nicholls’ evens favourite Thyme White after a fine ride from Jamie Moore, despite the winner being badly hampered on the final turn.
Fifty Ball had earlier returned to winning ways for trainer Moore, beating Sizable Sam in the Memberships At Ascot Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle for his first victory since December 2020.
Cobden made three trips to the winner’s enclosure on Sunday as he got up on Veteran’s Handicap Chase victor Elegant Escape for Colin Tizzard.
The former Welsh National winner stayed on gamely up the hill in the home straight to beat Wandrin Star and Some Chaos, recording his first win for over three years.
Elsewhere on the card, there was a 28/1 surprise winner of the Colts & Fillies Club Juvenile Handicap Hurdle as Stuart Edmunds’ Krypton Gold drew six lengths of his rivals, while Nicholls was denied a treble in the last, with Adrien Du Pont well beaten by David Kemp’s Law Of Gold.