By Andrew Atkinson

Paul Nicholls trained Bravemansgame tipped by landed the Betfair Cheltenham Novices Handicap Chase over 2m 7f at Newbury on Saturday.

“He did what we wanted to do – he’ll improve for the run. We purposely kept him fresh and it was a good performance,” said Nicholls.

“It’s a fair mark to win a handicap off – he’s not a horse who needs loads and loads of work – so that will put him right,” said Nicholls.

After an underpar January, with Nicholls having a paltry seven winners, he said: “I haven’t been able to pinpoint anything. I put a line through 20 of the ones I ran last week.

“Ground, not good enough, different things. So in January you can eliminate a lot, especially after we gave them their flu jabs.

“From now on we’ll start improving – the good horses will always run well – and the ordinary horses will run ordinary.

“I blood tested 23 horses on Monday and the only ones who weren’t normal were the ones who went to Ireland, but you can put that down to the journey.

“All the ones this week look great and worked great. I’ve been running at 29 per cent strike-rate all season and now I’m 23 per cent.

“I’m still higher than most trainers and at some stage over 12 months you’re going to dip. I’ve had it before, but will crack on and concentrate on getting these good horses ready for the spring festivals. “Of course you worrying about it, but you’re always going to have a blip from time to time, every stable does.

“I was fairly confident he’d win today. If we didn’t have a winner today I’d have been tearing my hair out.”

Bravemansgame was clipped into 11-4 from 3-1 for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

“He’s an exciting horse for Cheltenham and the future as much as anything,” said Nicholls.

“He’s a super horse – I think he’ll be even better next season when he’s had another summer on his back.

“It’s nice to go to Cheltenham with a chance. He’s much stronger and better now – he’s got a nice chance,” added Nicholls.