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Published: 14:34 | 15/2/16

Nicholls hopes for Bullets improvement

Dodging Bullets will need to improve if he is to retain his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown, according to trainer Paul Nicholls.

Having his first run since winning the two-mile championship at Cheltenham last March, Dodging Bullets finished ten lengths behind Top Gamble in the Betfair Exchange Chase (registered as the Game Spirit Chase).

Nicholls believes he expected too much of the gelding on his first run of the season but remains confident he can deliver when he returns to Prestbury Park for next month's Cheltenham Festival.

"We felt we had him as fit as we could in the circumstances, but he had to give weight to the impressive winner Top Gamble on ground that was much more testing than ideal for a horse bred for the Flat," Nicholls told his official website.

"My nephew Harry Derham, who rides Dodging Bullets every day, was convinced he was going well enough at home to win.

"But the horse had only done eight weeks' work after his setback and if he was a footballer making a comeback from injury he would only have been asked to play maybe 40 or 50 minutes, not the entire 90 minutes.

"He would then probably have a second run out for perhaps an hour the next Saturday before being ready for a full game.

"A footballer would certainly not be asked to play for 90 minutes in his first match after injury.

"So when you think about it, we were not being very realistic in expecting Dodging Bullets to perform to his very best and win after being off for that time - it would not happen in any other sport.

"Looking back now I think we asked a bit too much of Dodging Bullets first time.

"He still ran a good race in finishing second, and will appreciate better ground at Cheltenham, where he will need to improve a great deal to retain his title in the Queen Mother Champion Chase - he just might."

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