Novice chasers give Nicholls hope

Paul Nicholls rates novice chasers Politologue and Arpege D'Alene as his best two chances of a gaining a winner at this year's Cheltenham Festival.

Politologue: Still carries the faith of his trainer

Although short of candidates for the four feature races this year, the 10-times champion trainer is placing his faith in two of his rising stars to fill that void.

Despite Politologue failing to make it back-to-back wins at Grade Two level last time out at Haydock, the Ditcheat trainer feels he can have a major say in the JLT Novices' Chase, for which he is a short as 7-1.

Nicholls said: "I think it was a good run at Haydock. He gave 3lb to a very good horse and was 20 lengths in front of Dan's (Skelton) horse. I think it will turn out to be a really good run.

"He is rated 152 off the back of that and that is not far off what Denman was at the end of his novice career. I think he just got beat by one on the day.

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"I think there is more improvement to come on better ground. The JLT is what he will run in. He is the ideal horse to run in the JLT.

"If you look at it now, he is probably third or fourth favourite for the JLT and there is not a lot between them. The favourite (Yorkhill) probably deserves to be on form.

"Politologue has a big chance though."

Nicholls expects even more improvement to come from Arpege D'Alene when stepped up to four miles in the JT McNamara National Hunt Chase.

Plans are in place for the seven-year-old to tackle the Reynoldstown Novices' Chase at Ascot a week on Saturday before taking aim at the Grade Two on March 14.

He said: "Arpege D'Alene won't be far away in the four-miler. He is crying out for a trip. He is almost certain to run in the Reynoldstown Novices' Chase.

"He is a good staying chaser. He won a novice chase at Aintree in November and was second in the Pertemps last year. He has been running well over fences.

"The way he stays, four miles will suit him really well. He is by Dom Alco and there will be no question in him staying."

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