Nicholls has won the extended three miles and a furlong contest, which is the first Grade One chase of the season in the UK, a record six times courtesy of Kauto Star (2006, 2007, 2009, 2011) and Silvianaco Conti (2012, 2014).
Successful in last season’s Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on Boxing Day at Kempton Park, the eight-year-old Bravemansgame subsequently only found Galopin Des Champs too strong in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.
On his seasonal reappearance Bravemansgame went down by a length and three-quarters to Gentlemansgame in the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on November 4th.
Speaking on a Zoom call today arranged by The Jockey Club and Betfair, the 14-times champion Jump trainer said: “Bryan (Drew) who owns Bravemansgame is quite keen for him to run and he has come out of the Charlie Hall very, very well. I think he will take a step forward for it.
“The Wetherby run will have done him a lot of good as he hadn’t been for a racecourse gallop or anything like that and I hadn’t really trained him hard as we knew there were bigger targets down the road.
“He has come on enormously for that run and Scott (Marshall) who rides him every day is delighted with him.”
“He is older now and there is still a month to Kempton and with the Betfair Chase being a valuable race, he will go there if the ground is not too bad.”
If Bravemansgame does run at Haydock Park, he will have a new jockey with Daryl Jacob set to take over the reins from usual pilot Harry Cobden who has commitments at Ascot. However, this is not something which concerns Nicholls.
Nicholls continued: “Daryl has won the race three times (on Bristol De Mai in 2017, 2018 and 2020), has lots of experience and rides out for us. He got on great with Bravemansgame this morning.
“Harry is going to go to Ascot as he has got six rides there including Pic d’Orhy and Blueking d'Oroux.
“It was not an easy decision but sometimes it is good to let someone else have a ride in case you ever need a reserve in the future.
“That’s the decision we’ve made and Bryan (Drew) is happy so Haydock is hopefully where we are going if the ground is all right.
“We hope the dry week that is forecast is forthcoming.”
The Ditcheat handler could also have a runner in the other big race at Haydock Park on Saturday in the shape of Hugo’s New Horse, who remains engaged in the £125,000 Betfair "Serial Winners" Stayers' Handicap Hurdle over an extended three miles.
He said: “Hugo’s New Horse has been confirmed as I always thought this was a good race for him.
“He has got to get over an ordinary run the other day (when unplaced at Cheltenham last month).
“We’ll make a decision on Thursday about whether he runs on Saturday or whether we wait another week and go to Newbury instead.”
The Betfair Chase - Betfair Odds: 6-4 Protektorat, Bravemansgame; 3-1 Shishkin; 7-1 Corach Rambler, Royale Pagaille; 40-1 Minella Drama
Betfair Spokesman, Barry Orr, commented today: “Bravemansgame and Protektorat are inseparable at the top of the market, but Shishkin is a fascinating addition and while his trainer is on weather watch, hopefully all six stand their ground and we have an excellent renewal of the great race.”
Betfair Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f 125y
3.00pm, Saturday 25th November, Haydock Park
Bravemansgame (FR) 8 11 10 Bryan Drew Paul Nicholls Daryl Jacob
Corach Rambler (IRE) 9 11 10 The Ramblers Lucinda Russell
Minella Drama (IRE) 8 11 10 Green Day Racing Donald McCain
Protektorat (FR) 8 11 10 Sir A Ferguson G Mason J Hales & L Hales Dan Skelton Harry Skelton
Royale Pagaille (FR) 9 11 10 Mrs S. Ricci Venetia Williams
Shishkin (IRE) 9 11 10 Mrs J Donnelly Nicky Henderson
6 five-day confirmations
The going at Haydock Park is currently:
Chase Course: Heavy, Soft in places
Hurdle Course: Soft, Heavy in places
There was 6mm of rain on Friday and 9mm on Sunday. The forecast is pretty much dry, with conditions becoming colder as the week progresses.
On this day in 2022...— Haydock Park Races (@haydockraces) November 19, 2023
It was a sweet victory for @harryskelton89 & @DSkeltonRacing as PROTEKTORAT stormed home in the @Betfair Chase 🤝🏆
Will he make it as a multiple-winner like Cue Card, Kauto Star and Bristol De Mai on Saturday?
🎟️ https://t.co/DBrQKAlVVK pic.twitter.com/d1BIZAeVl5