Nicholls buoyed by Denman operation
Paul Nicholls is hopeful a breathing operation will help Denman produce a better finishing effort when he goes for further Cheltenham Gold Cup glory next month.
The 2008 winner of the blue riband was joined by stable companions Big Buck's, Poquelin and Ghizao in a spin at Wincanton yesterday morning, and the champion trainer was delighted with the Prestbury Park-bound quartet.
Denman came up slightly short when bidding for a third win in the Hennessy Gold Cup in November and while he finished an honourable third to Diamond Harry, Nicholls feels the corrective procedure he has subsequently undergone will help him on his Festival return.
"Obviously, there was no disgrace in finishing just over 15 lengths third to Diamond Harry at Newbury, giving that very talented rival 26lb," Nicholls said .
"So why did we see fit to give him the operation? Well, in last year's Gold Cup and the Hennessy I didn't think he was finishing the races as well as he could. Before Denman first ran in Ireland, he had a hobday operation but he didn't have his soft palate cauterised.
"So we had that done a week after the Hennessy, and I just hope that it will improve him slightly and allow him to finish off his races a little better.
"We took four of our big Festival guns for a racecourse gallop this morning, and they all fired nicely. They all worked over two miles, going a nice steady gallop, then quickening up in the final furlong.
"Denman (Sam Thomas) worked with Big Buck's (Harry Skelton), and Poquelin (Ian Popham) worked with Ghizao (Nick Scholfield). All four went nicely, but it was not a serious gallop."
Elsewhere, on Saturday, Dunguib had to work fairly hard to see off Luska Lad in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran. Phillip Fenton's stable star, sent off the 8/11 favourite, travelled well throughout and came through to challenge for the lead two hurdles from home.
His rival made a mistake at that flight which helped his cause, and he then produced a flying leap at the last under jockey Brian O'Connell to seal the victory.
He was driven out all the way to the line, as Luska Lad (6/4) tried to rally, but the result never looked in doubt.
Sole other rival Gimli's Rock began to struggle before the second-last flight. The winner was trimmed to 14/1 from 16s by Sky Bet for the Stan James Champion Hurdle in March.
Fenton was delighted to see Dunguib get back on track and the Cheltenham Festival is now on his agenda again. "I'm very pleased with that on a number of counts. Firstly it was good to get his first run of the season under his belt," said the trainer.
"Secondly, he was an extremely fit horse five or six weeks ago and while he recovered from his infection (which resulted in a bad blood count), each week we were seeing improvement in him. We were lucky this race was put back as I've been much happier with him in the last 10 days.
"He settled after a few hurdles today and his jumping improved as the pace increased and he was slick over the last three flights. We'll go straight for the Champion Hurdle now."