Formerly stable jockey and assistant trainer to David Barons, Paul Nicholls first arrived at Manor Farm Stables – a former dairy farming facility, which has been completely transformed during his tenure – in Ditcheat, near Shepton Mallet, Somerset in October, 1991, with just eight horses. As a trainer in his own right, Nicholls was first thrust into the public when, at the Cheltenham Festival in 1999, he saddled Flagship Uberalles to win the Arkle Challenge Trophy, Call Equiname to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase and See More Business to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Collectively, those three winners were enough to secure the Leading Trainer Award for the first time.
However, as far as the overall trainers’ championship was concerned, after years of plating second fiddle to Martin Pipe, Nicholls would have to wait until the 2005/06 season – at the end of which Pipe retired, due to ill health – to become Champion Trainer for the first time. Nevertheless, having secured his first trainers’ title with 148 winners – including Kauto Star in the Tingle Creek Chase, Denman in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle, Noland in the Tolworth Hurdle and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Star De Mohaison in the Royal and Sun Alliance Chase, to name but a few – and £2.4 million in prize money, Nicholls replaced Pipe as the dominant force in British National Hunt racing.
In fact, Nicholls’ dominance was such that he became Champion Trainer in ten of the eleven seasons between 2005/06 and 2015/16, a sequence interrupted only by Nicky Henderson in 2012/13. At the last count, Nicholls had saddled 2,938 winners under National Hunt Rules, including 117 at the highest level and 43 at the Cheltenham Festival. The superstars to have passed through his care over the years have included Kauto Star, winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice and the King George VI Chase a record five times, Master Minded, winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase twice, Big Buck’s, winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle four years in a row and, of course, Neptune Collonges, winner of the Grand National.