Top National Hunt trainer Paul Nicholls has spoken of his plans to target a number of his leading performers at the £300,000 Order of Merit, which was announced this week.
Speaking supportively of the new initiative – jointly-funded by BHB and the seventeen participating racecourses – Nicholls already has his eye on winning the Order of Merit in its first year.
“The Order of Merit is a terrific concept. The financial incentives should lead to greater competition at the highest level in Jump Racing and a raising of the sport’s profile. Many of my top performers will certainly be targeted at the Order of Merit races,” he said today.
“I note that, had the Order of Merit been running over the last four seasons, I would have trained two of the winners, See More Business and Fadalko. It would be a great achievement to win the Order of Merit in its first season and give a tremendous boost to my stable staff as well as my owners.”
Outlining plans for his some of his string, Nicholls said: “Rigmarole will stay hurdling and take in all the big two-mile hurdle races. He will start off at Kempton in two weeks’ time, before taking in a campaign aimed at the Order of Merit to include the totesport Elite Hurdle, the totesport Bula Hurdle, Stan James Christmas Hurdle and the Axminster Kingwell Hurdle before the Smurfit Champion Hurdle itself.
“Azertyuiop will have a full programme of the William Hill Tingle Creek Chase, the skybetvegas.com Castleford Chase and the totesport Game Spirit Chase before he tries for a second Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham. After that I’d hope we’ll see him again at Sandown in the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Celebration Chase. He would be a leading contender for the Order of Merit.”
Nicholls was keen to not underestimate stable stalwart Cenkos who he said would take in all the top races and would be expected to make a significant points total through the season.
The Order of Merit offers £200,000 for the overall champion plus £50,000 for the Top Chaser and £50,000 for the Top Hurdler. 75% of each prize will go to the owner(s) of the horse, with one-fifth of this being in the form of vouchers for purchasing bloodstock at British sales houses. 25% of each prize will go to the stable team in cash, split 12.5% to the stable staff and 12.5% to the trainer.