Champion trainer Paul Nicholls is in something of a quandary in attempting to determine what will be the best route to campaign his talented The Nightingale, a horse rated too high to have a feasible chance in handicaps and yet who appears to be a few pounds short of the required mark to get his head in front in Grade 1 company, writes Elliot Slater.

Available at odds of between 25/1 and 50/1 for the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on March 15, The Nightingale was being considered for the Handicap Chase on January 21 but will miss that event as he would have had to concede lumps of weight to some very good horses. Nicholls now believes that he will wait until February for the Ascot Chase where he will race at level weights, admittedly against high-class opposition. Anyone following the ante-post Cheltenham betting online will know it is set to be a tough race.

An impressive winner of the Grade 2 Chase at Down Royal at the beginning of last season, the gelded son of Cadoudal was quietly fancied for the delayed King George VI Chase a couple of months later, but proved a disappointment in eventually being pulled up when tailed off in the race famously won by Long Run in what turned out to be his last start of the term. Beginning this campaign once again at Down Royal in November, The Nightingale ran well to be third to the smart Quito de La Roque in the Grade 1 Chase, and was then tracking the leaders when falling early on at Huntingdon five weeks later in the Grade 2 Peterborough Chase won by Gauvain.

Things didn’t get any better when the nine-year-old unseated Ryan Mahon at the ninth fence in a hot Grade 3 handicap chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, but Nicholls’ charge remains a horse of significant ability and if coming back to his best would not be out of the reckoning on official figures in the Ryanair Chase.