Nicholls has Gold Cup ambitions for Topofthegame

Paul Nicholls is hoping Topofthegame can emulate his once-in-a-lifetime great chaser Denman, plotting a campaign which leads to the 2021 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The great Denman won the Ladbrokes Trophy in 2007 – then known as the Hennessy – on his first start before going on to Gold Cup glory, defeating stablemate Kauto Star in a historic race.

Topofthegame is likely to follow a similar path, with Newbury’s Grade 3 handicap pencilled in for his return on November 28. The eight-year-old missed all of last season with a leg injury but is a 16-1 chance for next year’s Gold Cup. Bookmakers make him favourite for the Ladbrokes Trophy.

“Topofthegame is back and he’s fine,” said Nicholls. “He’s been doing a bit of trotting and walking but he’ll go off for eight weeks and then we’ll have him back in July to get him ready for Newbury. That’s where we’ll aim to start him a bit like we did with Denman.

“There’s a lot of water under the bridge but he looks great and physically he’s improved. He’s a big, backwards horse so a bit of time off won’t have done him any harm. He’s not the easiest in the world to train but a lot of the good ones aren’t. But when you get him right, he’s obviously a very good horse.”

Despite missing the season, Topofthegame’s form has been boosted. In his RSA Chase win, at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, he defeated Santini who finished second in the Gold Cup while third-place Delta Work has won three times since at Grade 1 level.

Nicholls added: “The RSA was a fantastic race but he had good form with Defi Du Seuil at Exeter too and ran well at Kempton [Kauto Star Novices’ Chase]. He won’t have too many runs, probably two before Cheltenham and we’ll see how it goes. I can’t see any reason why he can’t be as good as before.”

Nicholls also confirmed that Clan Des Obeaux would not be going to Cheltenham next season. The back-to-back King George winner finished a disappointing eighth in this year’s race and his season will be tailored around returning to Kempton on Boxing Day.

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