Paul Nicholls closes in on champion trainers' title

Paul Nicholls is confident of securing his 12th champion trainer title as the finale of the National Hunt season looms into view at the end of April.

A succesful Grand National meeting boosted Nicholls' prospects after a Grade One double on the first day at Aintree - with Monmiral and Clan Des Obeaux. He followed that up with a Grade Two bumper win for Knappers Hill in the hands of his daughter Megan.

"Heading to Aintree with fresh horses made a big difference," said Nicholls.

"The first day of Aintree was absolutely superb, and I was thrilled for Ged Mason and Sir Alex Ferguson (owners who also won with Dan Skelton's Protektorat) on landing a Grade One treble.

"Obviously, Megan winning on Saturday after both my jockeys got hurt, eased the day."

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Nicholls is more than £500,000 in front of nearest challenger Dan Skelton, so a 12th British jumps trainers' title appears almost his.

"After Aintree, you'd have to say it would be difficult to get beat for the title," he told Great British Racing.

"I'm currently £500,000 plus in front of Dan, and recouping those winnings doesn't happen in two weeks. We're just carrying on as normal and having plenty of runners - it's all but in the bag really.

"It will be nice to regain the title. I was a bit frustrated last season, which ended prematurely because of Covid. Nicky (Henderson) was obviously in front after the Cheltenham Festival, but we had a big team lined up to run at Aintree and then on to Ayr and Sandown.

"We never had the chance to challenge him. So to get the title back this year, what with all the issues, will be fantastic."

Despite the Irish dominating the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National, Nicholls is pleased with the performance of his own yard.

"Numerically, our record last season was 171 winners, and we're only nine off beating that statistic, so that's another milestone that I'm aiming for," he said.

"If we can crack 172 winners and secure my 12th champion trainer title it would be awesome - and it reflects so well on the whole team.

"There's all this talk about the Irish this and the Irish that, but we've not exactly had a bad season and will hopefully land 172 winners with over £2.5 million in prizemoney.

"My biggest battle over the next few years will be Dan Skelton, without a doubt. Then, the two Harrys (Skelton and Cobden) will challenge one another - that will be interesting!

"I keep Dan on his toes and I'm proud of the fact that he was with me for nine years and is achieving so much."