From Denman to Kauto Star - The five greatest Paul Nicholls horses

The don from Ditcheat has proved himself a legend in the jumps game, winning pretty much every top race worth winning. Planet Sport pulls together Paul Nicholls' top five from the Somerset trainer.

Policeman's son Paul Nicholls has an arresting record in jump racing, winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup four times and the King George VI Chase on a staggering 12 occasions.

Many quality horses have been trained at his Ditcheat base in Somerset and animals of the calibre of Big Buck's, Silviniaco Conti and Cyrname don't even make this top five, showing the armoury Nicholls has had at his disposal.

Planet Sport counts down the top five greatest Paul Nicholls horses, all of them greats.

5. Azertyuiop

An outstanding chaser in the John Hales yellow and red silks, Azertyuiop also won at Auteuil in France before being snapped up to run for Nicholls.

A winner on debut, Azertyuiop was patiently targeted at the 2003 Arkle and came away victorious at Cheltenham with a scintillating 11 length win over Impek.

Azertyuiop showed real grit to fight back from second placed finishes in the 2004 Tingle Creek and Victor Chandler chases and the seven-year-old took the Champion Chase at Cheltenham that year in game fashion.

Ruby Walsh was a sight to behold, romping to a nine length win from the great Flagship Uberalles and in a league of his own.

A step up to three miles in the 2004 King George saw Azertyuiop finish a not disgraced third and Azertyuiop retired in 2006 after cementing himself among the top horses Nicholls has trained.

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4. Denman

What's that coming over the hill is it a monster? The song by The Automatic could have been written for this bull of a Nicholls horse who demolished the opposition in winning several top chases including the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The rivalry with stablemate Kauto Star came to characterise an exciting period in national hunt history, during which Nicholls had the top two in the betting for the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The classy Kauto went off the favourite but just couldn't live with Denman's aggressive, front-running performance on the day. Kauto Star did run on for second place but Sam Thomas pushed Denman to a solid seven lengths success.

Denman wasn't finished there though and put in a rugged performance to take a second Hennessy Gold Cup, carrying top-weight.

The stout victory was apt for Denman's nickname of "the tank" as Paul Barber's heavyweight stayed on strongly for a three and half length win at Newbury.

Denman epitomised the varied talents that Nicholls got the best out of, blending brute power with real quality at the top level.

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3. Master Minded

Another one of Nicholls' excellent French recruits, few would have expected Master Minded to go from unseating his rider at Exeter to winning the Champion Chase at Cheltenham in the space of three races, but he did just that.

Master Minded was made for the Champion Chase, winning it in 2008 by a full 19 lengths from Voy Por Ustedes.

Running in the Clive Smith silks, like another top runner Kauto Star, Master Minded had just a single prep run in 2009 before going back to Cheltenham and defending his Champion Chase crown in decisive fashion, beating the David Pipe trained Well Chief by seven lengths.

He then went on to Punchestown and took the Kerrygold Champion Chase for the hell of it with a hard fought, head victory over Big Zeb.

A third Champion Chase eluded Master Minded but he did go on to win a Melling Chase at Aintree in 2011 and the Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot, in a thrilling swan song season, aged eight.

After his 2009 Victor Chandler Chase win, Nicholls labelled Master Minded as "the best I've trained". Critics may beg to differ but it was high praise from the master trainer.

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2. See More Business

Every trainer needs a superstar to break into the elite and Nicholls got that with See More Business, who catapulted him into the big time at the turn of the millennium.

A win in the aptly named Rising Stars Novices' Chase in 1996 pointed the way and the bay went on to take the King George at Kempton in 1997 and 1999.

A tasty sandwich in between was a Cheltenham Gold Cup win, during which Mick Fitzgerald reeled in Go Ballistic after the last to take a thrilling length victory in the big one.

See More Business proved a consistent winner for Nicholls, running until the ripe old age of 13.

Indeed, he won the listed Country Gentlemen's Association Chase at Wincanton at 13, showing that See More Business had class in spades right into veteran age.

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1. Kauto Star

Just the mention of the name Kauto Star is enough to get jumps racing fans dewy eyed. Many consider the bay with the white blaze to be the best of the best and not just for Nicholls.

Bought from France by Clive Smith after looking like a prodigy, Kauto Star went on to win an astounding 16 Grade 1s in a nine-year career.

Just a roll call of his achievements stands Kauto Star apart; two Tingle Creeks, four Betfair Chases, a ridiculously good five Kings Georges and then a pair of Cheltenham Gold Cups make this Star a shimmering light.

The 2009 Cheltenham Gold cup summed up Kauto Star as both a gentleman and a warrior, becoming the first horse to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup, gaining revenge on his stablemate Denman.

The prize money earned by this phenomenon also speaks for itself with over £2 million won for connections but it is the reverence that Kauto Star is still discussed today which is testament to being Paul Nicholls' greatest ever horse.

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