A look back at Paul Nicholls’ four Gold Cup wins – can he make it five?

In the history of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, one trainer stands above the rest with their record number of wins. Tom Dreaper famously won a trio of races in the 1960s with Arkle, but his first win came in 1946 when Prince Regent was the favourite. He went on to have further success with Fort Leney in 1968, bringing his total number of Gold Cup wins to five.

Of all the currently active trainers, Paul Nicholls holds four Gold Cup titles and is one win away from sharing Dreaper’s record. But can Nicholls make it five? Let’s take a look back at his Gold Cup success and his chances in this year’s race.

2020: Clan des Obeaux or Frodon?

This year, Nicholls rests his hopes on two eight year olds: Clan des Obeaux and Frodon, and betting odds ahead of the Cheltenham Gold Cup price the former at the better price of 9/1, while Frodon can be found as an outside chance at 25/1. The early favourite at the time of writing is last year’s winner, Al Boum Photo, trained by Willie Mullins.

Clan des Obeaux came fifth in last year’s race, but is in reasonable form, having recently won the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day by 21 lengths. Frodon will be making his Gold Cup debut, but won last year’s Festival Trophy. Earlier this month, the gelding ridden by Bryony Frost won the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton, making a swift return to form.

2009: Kauto Star

Nicholls’ last success came in 2009, when the legendary Kauto Star made history in becoming the first horse to regain the Gold Cup. Rode by Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star beat stablemate Denman to the finish line by some 13 lengths – and no other horse could come close. It was a return to form for the pre-race favourite, who had been beaten in the previous year’s race. And it could have been a trio of placed-finishes for Nicholls, but for Exotic Dancer securing third, ahead of Neptune Collonges.

2008: Denman

The 2008 Gold Cup saw Nicholls famously orchestrate a winning one-two-three, as Denman got one over on Kauto Star, ensuring the horse didn’t secure back-to-back races for the first time since Best Mate in 2003-04. Neptune Collonges completed the placing. Denman took the lead as early as the eleventh fence and never looked like relinquishing his advantage – going on to win by seven lengths. Many were expecting a close race between Denman and Kauto Star, but it never materialised and the previous year’s winner only made up ground with three fences to jump.

2007: Kauto Star

Kauto Star secured his first win in the Gold Cup on his debut, but it could have been oh-so different for Nicholls’ horse. Exotic Dancer was the pre-race favourite, but was eventually beaten by two-and-a-half lengths. Kauto Star had come from behind and came into his own on the second lap. With four fences remaining, he chased the leading pack before taking the lead with two fences left to jump. But after hitting the final fence, the win was in doubt. However, he stayed on strongly to reach the finish line first.

1999: See More Business

1999 was a breakthrough year for Nicholls at the Cheltenham Festival, where he won a trio of races. After success in the Arkle Challenge Trophy and Queen Mother Champion Chase, he went on to win the Gold Cup with See More Business. The Irish-bred gelding had previously won the King George VI Chase that season, but despite that, was by no means the favourite going into the Cheltenham centrepiece. The 16/1 hopeful hadn’t started well and it wasn’t until the final fence that he soon led, with one length separating See More Business from second-placed Go Ballistic.