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'Relief' for Paul Nicholls as he battles to another trainers' title


Trainer Paul Nicholls with the Champion National Hunt Trainers Trophy

Trainer Paul Nicholls with the Champion National Hunt Trainers Trophy

Trainer Paul Nicholls with the Champion National Hunt Trainers Trophy

Paul Nicholls insisted he gained as much pleasure from winning his 10 trainers' championship than any other.

With no apparent stable stars other than Silvinaico Conti, Nicholls considers the title which he claimed on a final day thriller at Sandown is his sweetest.

In previous seasons, a succession of big Saturday winners enabled him to build up a huge advantage heading into the last day of the season.

This time it was different, with Willie Mullins starting the day a workable £53,592.54 behind, but a fter Nicholls filled the places in the bet365 Gold Cup with Just A Par (second) and Southfield Theatre (fourth) there was no doubt.

The consolation of winning the final race of the season with McKinley was to be just that for Mullins, who had narrowly missed out earlier with Valseur Lido and was second to the magnificent Sprinter Sacre with Un De Sceaux.

Nicholls - earning a total of £2,439,560.26 for the season to his rival's £2,341,735.22 for victory by £97,825.04 - said: "It is a relief. There is a lot of pressure, because unlike before, it has created a lot of interest.

"Everyone has been willing us on and it was always a little bit Team GB versus Ireland, and Willie has had a magnificent time. Hats off to him for coming over and it has made things more interesting.

"I'm hopeful it has been really good for racing. We have all got stuck in, worked hard and got some great results.

"It thought I had no chance after Aintree to be honest. Vicente (Scottish Grand National) was a big day last week and all the horses have been going really well, just when you think it is over. "

While Mullins came up short in his quest for a first British trainers' title, he was magnanimous in defeat.

He said: "Of course, this makes me more determined to win the title next year. I'm honoured to be in the position I am today. I thank all my owners and team for putting me in this position. They all, to a man, said, Willie, take whatever horse you need to Sandown', even though they would be missing good prize-money at Punchestown.

"I think that is fantastic. I didn't expect it and didn't ask them. That was the feeling of my owners and I have to thank them for their generosity.

"I think next year it depends on the team we have. You look at football teams - they do go up and down.

" Paul has had a fantastic team this year without Grade One stars and if we can keep our Grade One stars and perform at Cheltenham like we have been the last few years, then it's on.

" But otherwise, unless you win the National or something, it is difficult. They all have to stay sound and get into next season.

"But I would dearly love to come back to Sandown next season with...hopefully a better chance."