sport

Nicholls admits title surprise

Paul Nicholls has admitted he is "surprised" after wrestling back his trainers' championship crown from Nicky Henderson.

At the beginning of the season Henderson appeared to have an embarrassment of riches with Simonsig, Sprinter Sacre and Bobs Worth in his ranks but, for one reason or another, those three have not delivered.

With Nicholls no longer able to call on the likes of Kauto Star, Denman and Master Minded, he thought it would take a year or two to rebuild the strength of his string, yet despite Henderson striking in the Hennessy with Triolo D'Alene, Nicholls kept him at arms length all winter.

"Nicky had an awesome team of horses last year and unfortunately for him, things didn't always go right (this season)," said Nicholls.

"As we've seen with the football, it depends on the players you've got and how they play for you.

"The team has gone well this year and I am a bit surprised.

"Ruby (Walsh) wasn't riding for us this year and Dan (Skelton) had moved on. It was a completely new team and a new team of horses.

"We actually won more prize-money this year than we did last year, so it's been better than we really thought it would be.

"The whole team have got an awful lot of pleasure from regaining the championship having lost it.

"I'm really proud of the whole team, who've worked so hard at home.

"They have been fantastic and winning the title for them means probably as much to me.

"It was a surprising season, really. There is always room for improvement and we will have to tighten up a few things - nothing specific - we just want to evolve the operation, as every yard does.

"We have a great team of novices to look forward to and a good team of young horses - we've been buying a few we like and these are exciting times. There are plenty of exciting times to look forward to as well.

"We won several Grade Ones, won plenty of other big races and things went better than expected.

"But aside from the big days, one of the greatest pleasures for me was seeing how well Dan (Skelton) and Harry (Fry) - who left us a couple of seasons ago - have done.

"Hopefully they have been given the right training and I can honestly see Dan becoming a future champion trainer. I'm so happy for him that he's made a great start to his training career and he has the financial backing of his family, which will obviously help him.

"Harry might not have the size of base that Dan has, but he will be good trainer in his own right. I'm delighted for the pair of them."