Paul Nicholls admits stable health fears before Cheltenham

Paul Nicholls

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has revealed that he is concerned about the health of some of his horses ahead of the Cheltenham Festival.

Nicholls has cancelled a planned media day on Wednesday for the festival, which starts on 13 March.

"It is fairly obvious we had a moderate weekend," said Nicholls. "We have several horses coughing,"

Neither dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kauto Star nor three-time World Hurdle champion Big Buck's are affected.

Hurdler Zarkandar, who earned a narrow success at Newbury, was the only winner from 31 of Nicholls' runners on Friday and Saturday.

But the Somerset trainer refuses to make any excuses, even though a number of his horses were taken ill.

"It's nothing serious but it's got to be monitored," Nicholls wrote in his Betfair column.

"It gives us some clues as to why a few of the team didn't run to their true form, which was 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.

"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."

Other horses unaffected by the bug are Join Together, Al Ferof and Silivinaico Conti.

But Nicholls remains upbeat that their form will not come into question going into the four-day festival.

"We've headed into Cheltenham before in so-called "terrible form" but end up banging in a few winners at the Sandown meeting and having a great Festival," he pointed out.

"It is my duty to leave no stone unturned now as we prepare for the last three weeks before the Festival."

Nicholls boasts a formidable squad for the festival and is seeking to make history on two fronts.

Big Buck's is being aimed at a fourth consecutive World Hurdle and 16th straight victory, while veteran Kauto Star looks to regain the Gold Cup he won in 2007 and 2009.

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