Nicholls so proud of Bravemansgame – and says more to come yet

Paul Nicholls has expressed his pride in Bravemansgame, whose season ended with a gallant third in the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday.

Bravemansgame, whose season ended with a gallant third in the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday.
Bravemansgame, whose season ended with a gallant third in the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday. Picture: PA

Always held in the highest regard by the Ditcheat handler, the eight-year-old started his campaign at Wetherby with a comeback win in the Charlie Hall, which was soon followed by completing Paul Nicholls' long-term goal and winning the King George at Christmas – a victory that put him in the picture for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Although Galopin Des Champs proved too tough a nut to crack at Prestbury park, his runner-up effort cemented his position as Britain's number one staying chaser and provided the champion trainer with his best finish in the blue riband since Denman and Kauto Star placed behind Long Run in 2011.

He faced a Cheltenham rematch with Galopin Des Champs for his final assignment of the season at the Punchestown Festival – again playing a central role in another thrilling Grade One contest.

"I was mighty proud of him," said Nicholls, speaking on a media call with Great British Racing.

"It was a fantastic race, he jumped brilliantly and everything went to plan. He quickened up to the second-last and as I was watching him head off up the straight, I couldn't see him getting beat.

"He just lost a bit of momentum at the last and Harry (Cobden) was mortified as you probably saw from his interview – but I said to him, 'If you fired him at it and fell you would have kicked yourself'. The stride just wasn't there and it just cost him a chance of winning."

He went on: "It was the end of a very, very hard season. I know he hadn't run that many times, but we had obviously trained him quite hard and targeted races and got him really fit for them, so I was pleased by the way he looked on Wednesday and with how he ran.

"He's run a mighty race and he's run mighty all season. He's won a Charlie Hall, a King George and then finished second in a Gold Cup – he ran very well in that race against some very good horses."

Nicholls now has plenty to look forward to next season, where he believes Bravemansgame will be just hitting his peak and where over the next few seasons his achievements could see him join the Ditcheat immortals.

"He's been fantastic and I'm sure there is more to come from him," continued the champion trainer.

"He's only an eight-year-old and if you go back to the days of Denman and Kauto I don't think they reached their peak until they were nine and 10 so hopefully we have a bit more to come.

"It's exciting to have a horse like that and we're really looking forward to next season. He has come out of the race at Punchestown well. He's going to have a holiday now and then we'll target a race in the autumn before he goes to Kempton again.

"He's right up there with Clan Des Obeaux and Silviniaco Conti who won King Georges and Aintree Bowls and things like that. They were good horses. I think he's right up there with the very best, if not going to turn out to be the best, but the next two years will determine that. He's done very well and is going the right way.

"For any of those horses to achieve what Kauto achieved is near impossible because he was such a high-class horse and a once-in-a-lifetime horse. But Bravemansgame is carrying the flag for us and we're very proud of him."

While winning the King George is almost par for the course for any Nicholls-trained staying chaser, Bravemansgame's second in the Gold Cup has given the champion trainer optimism he could now have the horse to provide him with a fifth victory in the Cheltenham Festival feature.

He said: "Clan and Conti couldn't got at all at Cheltenham and a lot of horses can't perform at Cheltenham and I think next year if we ran in the Gold Cup we would probably ride Bravemansgame with a bit more restraint.

"We were right on the front end and there to get shot at and he probably just ran out of petrol a little bit.

"He jumps well and it might be we just need to take our time a little more with him and see if he can improve a few lengths – that's all we need to do."

For now though, Bravemansgame will spend his summer being carefully watched over by his master trainer in the paddock once used by some of the best champions in National Hunt history.

"I've got a paddock ready for him and Pic D'orhy in front of my house and they will go there together," added Nicholls.

"At one time I would have Big Bucks, Master Minded, Kauto and Denman in that field – that was an amazing foursome to look at every day. It's now probably half the size but those two will go out there and I will enjoy looking at them every day."

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