Nicholls holds the aces as trainers head for final day of battle
HONOURS were just about even between Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls on the penultimate day of the battle for the National Hunt trainers’ championship.
Mullins landed an early blow as Rolly Baby ran out a comprehensive winner of the McCarthy & Stone Chase at Perth.
Having already been among the winners at the Scottish track this week, Mullins started £53,556 behind reigning champion Nicholls, who is seeking a 10th title.
Rolly Baby was a 2-1 shot for his assignment, after opening his account over fences at Navan in February.
Paul Townend positioned the lightlyraced 11-year-old in behind Uhlan Bute for much of the two-and-a-half-mile event before taking over in the home straight to score by eight lengths. The victory earned Mullins £9,097, reducing the deficit to £44,459, and meaning the Closutton maestro will kick off what promises to be an enthralling afternoon at Sandown on Saturday with prizemoney of £2,275,660.
Nicholls had four runners at Chepstow. His first runner, Rainy City was involved in a pulsating climax to division one of the Evan And Megan Brace Memorial Novices’ Hurdle.
With Sam Twiston Davies on board, the six-year-old was one of three horses in line jumping the final flight but faded to finish third as 11-10 favourite Big Chief Benny claimed victory by a head from Beallandendall.
Nicholls had strong claims of claiming top honours in division two with Simon Squirrel but drew a blank when the 5-6 odds-on favourite crashed out at the final flight, leaving 9-2 shot Curious Carlos to cruise clear.
The wait for a winner did not go on too long for Nicholls, however, as 7-2 joint-favourite Ruben Cotter took the Dunraven Windows Handicap Chase in decisive fashion, picking up a valuable £7,798 in the process. Given a confident ride by Harry Cobden, the 10-year-old held a firm advantage three out and never looked like relinquishing it, coming home seven lengths clear of Purple ‘N Gold. That took Nicholls to £2,328,489 – a lead of £52,829.
And with Whispering Storm (9-4 favourite) finishing the night with a decent effort to take second place in the Braceys ‘The Friendly Builders Merchant’ ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle, picking up £763, a final advantage of £53,592 means Team Ditcheat still hold the aces.