Ride of my life: Paul Nicholls

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  • Paul Nicholls recalls his ride in the 1987 Welsh Grand National

    Playschool was never impressive at home, always slow and laid-back, although he’d been fairly brave when schoolingat home over fences.

    He was quite a character. Just as you started to walk towards the gallops he would put some really good bucks in, which took a fair bit of sitting on.

    His first run over fences was at Newbury and we nearly went upside-down at the first, which frightened us both. So I dropped in at the back and got him jumping. When we got into the straight, I found I had an awful lot of horse under me. He scooted clear and won very nicely.

    I will always remember the Welsh Grand National a year later – three miles five furlongs and bottomless ground. Jennifer Barons said to me: ‘Just remember it’s a long, long way – don’t get there too soon.’ I crept round the inside at the back, and because Playschool jumped left I was always jumping into space.

    Down the far side, he was going really well. I could see Rhyme Or Reason in the corner of my eye, but I kept on taking a pull.

    As we turned into the straight, Rhyme Or Reason and another horse were going really well on my outside, and I thought: ‘I’m in a bit of trouble now, I should have made more use of him.’

    But then came the unforgettable moment. I felt that horse physically change gear. He incredibly went from the fourth last to win from Rhyme Or Reason, who later that year won the Grand National.

    Playschool had incredible class and ability, I shall never forget that race – it was the best ride I ever had.

    Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (2 May) where Bridget Parker talks about her ‘ride of a lifetime’ at the 1972 Munich Olympics on CornishGold.

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