Nicholls in pole position after Ayr masterclass

Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies wins the Coral Scottish Grand National on board Vincente.
Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies wins the Coral Scottish Grand National on board Vincente.
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Paul Nicholls is hoping he can keep the bandwagon rolling over the next seven days after he reclaimed the lead in the trainers’ title from Willie Mullins with a four-timer at Ayr, capped by Vicente’s victory in the Coral Scottish Grand National.

The Ditcheat handler is back in the driving seat with just one week left of the season thanks to the exploits of Vivaldi Collonges (9-4 favourite), Le Mercurey (11-2), Vicente (14-1) and Gibbes Bay (5-1).

Mullins led by more than £130,000 before the start of play, but Nicholls showed his desire to retain the title by stealing the limelight and edging £30,000 clear.

Mullins’ hopes of winning the big race for Ireland ended as early as the third fence when Measureofmydreams crashed out.

In the straight for the final time, it looked as though Seeyouatmidnight was going to strike for Scottish Borders trainer Sandy Thomson.

However, Vincente was delivered with a perfectly-timed run by Sam Twiston-Davies to lead after jumping the last and hold the late charge of Alvarado by two and three-quarters of a length with Seeyouatmidnight third and Royale Knight fourth.

Nicholls said: “I’ve had this in mind for a long time. We kept him fresh all winter, didn’t run him from the December meeting at Cheltenham, and then went to the Festival for the four-miler, where he was arguably a bit unlucky in running, and then today was the day really.

“He stays well, a flat track suits him well and he could just turn out to be an Aintree horse next season and that’s probably where we will aim him.

“It means a lot on days like these, everybody has worked hard all winter and it hasn’t always gone to plan this year.

“(It’s) a huge turnaround (in the title race), we were 180 grand down this time last week, but we just kept chipping away and we needed a big result today and we’ve had some good winners. They’ve been a massive help.

“We’ve just got to keep going all week now and Sandown is going to be a big day.”

Twiston-Davies was also aboard Le Mercurey (11-2), who floored hot-pot Bristol De Mai by seven lengths in the Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Novices’ Chase.

“We always believed in him. Cheltenham was wrong, he doesn’t like it there. He’s better on a flat, galloping track,” said Nicholls.

Trainer Hugo Palmer.

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