Bravemansgame ‘twice the horse’ he was at Cheltenham last year.
The King George winner’s Gold Cup chance continues to gain confidence.
Paul Nicholls is getting more optimistic about Bravemansgame’s chances in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The eight-year-old horse, owned by John Dance and Bryan Drew, won the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day at Kempton by 14 lengths over Royale Pagaille.
After cruising to another straightforward victory in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby in October, it was his second victory of the season.
The champion trainer is happy to keep him under wraps until March 17, even though he hasn’t run the lengthy three-and-a-quarter-mile Gold Cup test yet.
“He is fine. We think he has a lovely chance,” Nicholls said.
“He is unbeaten this year, a different horse to last year. He is big and strong and well – a lovely chance he’s got.”
Bravemansgame is a 9-1 favorite to win the Gold Cup, which Nicholls has won four times, including bringing the first three home in 2008, but he hasn’t shown that he can make the trip.
He finished third to Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs in 2021, his sole appearance at Cheltenham.
Nicholls is left non-plussed by the naysayers. He said: “No one knows if he will stay three miles two (furlongs), as he has never been three-two.
“All I know he has won a King George and horses have got to stay to win a King George, and plenty of mine who have won a King George have won a Gold Cup.
“He won a point-to-point when he was four. You just take no notice of criticism and know your own thoughts.
“He wasn’t right last year. He ran at Cheltenham and he was third in that, but that was when he was a five-year-old. He was a young horse then and is twice the horse he was. He has strengthened up and is totally different.”
At Kempton, under Harry Cobden, Bravemansgame traveled extremely well and was not slowing down at the end of the race.
Nicholls thinks he can beat A Plus Tard, the Gold Cup winner from last year who is trained by Henry de Bromhead, and Galopin Des Champs, the current favorite who won the John Durkan Memorial at Punchestown before Christmas.
Nicholls added: “He got the trip beautifully at Kempton. What I like about him, if the ground is half-decent, he has got enough pace to travel and he jumped well. He can just save and turn in, then I think he has got a lovely chance.
“I’m very happy with his prep and I think we are doing the right thing by not running him. He is very fresh and very fit.
“He will go on anything, but hopefully on Gold Cup day, unless we get torrent of rain, on that track you usually get good to soft, which will be perfect.
“It is an open race. The short-priced favourite is short enough, because of where he is trained. He has done well, but is short enough probably. But he’s the one we all have to aim at.
“It’s a Gold Cup and there are lots of good horses in the race, but it is an open contest. The waters were muddied a bit on Saturday (Cotswold Chase) and it is an interesting old race you know, but we are looking forward to it.”
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