Denman and Kauto just two stars in unstoppable rise to the top of Paul Nicholls

Trainer Paul Nicholls

Paul Nicholls has come a long way since taking out a training licence with just eight horses in 1991.

Born on April 17, 1962 as the son of a policeman, Nicholls’ career in racing started in the saddle – first riding in point-to-points after leaving school at the age of 16.

He went on to partner 133 winners under rules, most notably landing successive renewals of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Broadheath (1986) and Playschool (1987), before retiring from riding in 1989.

After a spell assisting trainer David Barons – not only the trainer of Broadheath and Playschool but also 1991 Grand National hero Seagram – Nicholls decided to go it alone in November of that year, after replying to an advert placed in the Sporting Life.

Paul Nicholls with the Queen at a recent stable visit
Paul Nicholls with the Queen at a recent stable visit (Matt Keeble/PA)

He soon saddled his first winner – the appropriately-named Olveston, who was owned by the trainer’s father and named after the Gloucestershire village in which he was raised.

His rise to the top of the training ranks over the last quarter of a century has been meteoric, with Nicholls set to be crowned champion National Hunt trainer for the 11th time on Saturday week – just days after joining Martin Pipe and Nicky Henderson as the only trainers to saddle 3,000 winners over jumps in Britain.

The Ditcheat maestro, 57, is famed for training some of the modern-day jumping greats.

Paul Nicholls with Denman (left) and Kauto Star
Paul Nicholls with Denman (left) and Kauto Star (David Davies/PA)

Perhaps the most iconic name to have passed through Nicholls’ hands is Kauto Star – the first horse in history to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the winner of countless other Grade Ones, including the King George VI Chase at Kempton five times and four Betfair Chases at Haydock.

See More Business (1999) and the great Denman (2008) also won the Gold Cup for Nicholls, while Call Equiname (1999), Azertyuiop (2004) and dual winner Master Minded (2008 and 2009) have given him four wins in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Big Buck’s won the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham four times as part of an unbeaten run of 18 straight races – a jumping world record only recently equalled by the Henderson-trained Altior.

In total Nicholls currently has 45 Cheltenham Festival winners to his name, making him the third most successful trainer in history at the showpiece meeting behind Willie Mullins and Henderson.

Nicholls also claimed victory in the world’s most famous steeplechase – the Grand National – with the grey Neptune Collonges in 2012.

Another notable landmark came in February this year when he sent out a total of eight winners on Saturday, February 16, eclipsing the seven he saddled one day in November 1998.