A week that started with Grade 1-winning novice hurdler Caldwell Potter becoming the most expensive National Hunt horse ever purchased at public auction ended with the 15-time champion trainer ruling him out of both the Sky Bet Supreme and Baring Bingham Novices' Hurdle.
Instead, Nicholls and his deep-pocketed owners Sir Alex Ferguson, John Hales, Ged Mason and Peter Done are willing to play the long game and give a horse they hope can one day win a Gold Cup all the time he needs.
"He's not going to Cheltenham," said Nicholls of a horse who was as low as 10-1 with a number of firms for the Supreme and as short as 7-1 in a place for the Baring Bingham.
"He's a horse for the future and was bought to go chasing, so we're going to be patient with him. He won't be ready for Cheltenham, it's impossible to get a horse acclimatised that quickly, so we won't do that to him."
Caldwell Potter was two from three over hurdles for Gordon Elliott, including a powerful six-and-a-half-length success in the Grade 1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle – a race won by the likes of Istabraq, Hurricane Fly, Jezki and Sizing John – at Leopardstown over Christmas, when owned under the Caldwell Construction banner.
Andy and Gemma Brown's decision to exit the sport and offer 29 horses for sale was a hammer blow for Elliott, who was plotting a route to the festival for Caldwell Potter.
The six-year-old had been expected to contest the Grade 1 Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last weekend before his impending sale ruled him out of an exciting clash with Ballyburn.
Elliott did his best to keep the full-brother to Mighty Potter and half-brother to French Dynamite, Indiana Jones and Ryanair Mares' Novices' Hurdle second favourite Brighterdaysahead in his yard, but was ultimately outbid by Anthony Bromley of Highflyer.
Three of Caldwell Potter's four new owners – Ferguson, Hales and Mason – sadly lost Hermes Allen after a fall at the second-last in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown this month.
Nicholls said Caldwell Potter might be seen again over hurdles at some point this season, but stressed his future lies over fences and he had been bought to fill the void left by Hermes Allen as a Gold Cup aspirant.
Asked if Caldwell Potter might be acclimatised in time to appear at Aintree he said: "We'll see, all options are open. But I want to see him running in a novice chase at the end of October and we'll go on from there, like Hermes was doing. We're very lucky to have him."
Hermes Allen was himself a Grade 1-winning novice hurdler having landed the Challow at Newbury before finishing sixth to Impaire Et Passe in the Baring Bingham and third to Irish Point in the Mersey Novices' Hurdle at Aintree.
He started his chasing campaign this season at Newbury in December, winning the Grade 2 John Francome Novices' Chase at Newbury by six and a half lengths from Scilly Isles winner Nickle Back, before chasing home French wonderhorse Il Est Francais in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase.
Nicholls still has a strong team of novice chasers to take to this year's festival, with Ginny's Destiny a 100-30 shot for the Turners and last year's Albert Bartlett winner Stay Away Fay a 5-1 chance for the Brown Advisory.
Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (1.30 Cheltenham, March 12)
Sky Bet: Evs Ballyburn, 4 Mystical Power, 7 Jeriko Du Reponet, 8 Slade Steel, 10 Firefox, 12 Caldwell Potter, Ile Atlantique, Dysart Enos, 14 Billericay Dickie, Brighterdaysahead, No Flies On Him, 16 bar
Baring Bingham Novices' Hurdle (1.30 Cheltenham, March 13)
Betfair: 5-1 Ballyburn, 9-2 Slade Steel, 7 Mystical Power, Readin Tommy Wrong, 8 Ile Atlantique, 9 Gidleigh Park, 12 Billericay Dickie, 14 Handstands, 20 bar
Paul Nicholls has ruled out the Cheltenham Festival this year with Caldwell Potter.— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 11, 2024
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