A look at the respective runners of Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls on Saturday as the pair battle for the National Hunt trainers title. With the jumps trainers championship reaching a thrilling climax at Sandown on Saturday, Ashley Iveson runs the rule over seven races that will define a season.Paul Nicholls has a lead of £53,592 heading into Saturday, but with £150,000 up for grabs in the bet365 Gold Cup alone, its all to play for. Click here for the latest betting in the trainers championshipWillie Mullins - £2,275,659 (before racing Saturday)Paul Nicholls - £2,329,251 (before racing Saturday)2.20 - bet365 Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Prize-money £50,000)PAUL NICHOLLS: Tommy SilverWILLIE MULLINS: Voix Du ReveVOIX DU REVE looked sure to go close when coming to grief at the final flight in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham. He is 5lb higher now, though, and might have to make do with minor honours behind Wolf Of Windlesham. Paul Nicholls relies upon TOMMY SILVER, but he perhaps needs softer ground.OUTCOME: 1 Wolf Of Windlesham, 2 Voix Du Reve 3 Duke Street3.00 - bet365 Oaksey Chase (Prize-money £50,000)PAUL NICHOLLS: Saphir Du Rheu, Rocky Creek, Wonderful CharmWILLIE MULLINS: Valseur Lido, BallycaseyVALSEUR LIDO has an excellent opportunity to secure an important victory for Mullins. The testing nature of Sandown will play to his strengths and he is well treated by the conditions of the race. Nicholls saddles SAPHIR DU RHEU, ROCKY CREEK and WONDERFUL CHARM, with the former taken to finish third.OUTCOME: 1 Valseur Lido, 2 Menorah, 3 Saphir Du Rheu3.35 - bet365 Celebration Chase (Prize-money £125,000)PAUL NICHOLLS: Dodging Bullets, Solar Impulse, Ulck Du LinWILLIE MULLINS: Un De SceauxA key contest in many respects and Sprinter Sacre can confirm Cheltenham authority over the Mullins-trained UN DE SCEAUX, who is expected to pick up the second prize of almost £27,000. Former champion chaser DODGING BULLETS can make a slight return to form by finishing in the money for Nicholls.OUTCOME: 1 Sprinter Sacre, 2 Un De Sceaux, 3 Dodging Bullets4.10 - bet365 Gold Cup (Prize-money £150,000)PAUL NICHOLLS: Southfield Theatre, Just A ParWILLIE MULLINS: Sir Des Champs, MeasureofmydreamsHuge amounts of money at stake, but it could be that the two title-chasing trainers are out of luck in what is always a terrifically difficult race to win.OUTCOME: 1 Sausalito Sunrise, 2 Henri Parry Morgan, 3 Bishops Road, 4 Le Reve4.45 - bet365 Select Hurdle (Prize-money £50,000)PAUL NICHOLLS: Ptit Zig, San Benedeto, SilsolWILLIE MULLINS: Vroum Vroum MagThe Mullins-trained VROUM VROUM MAG is the banker of the afternoon and should win cosily. PTIT ZIG is an interesting contender for Nicholls, though, and can chase him home.OUTCOME: 1 Vroum Vroum Mag, 2 Ptit Zig, 3 Ubak5.20 - bet365 Josh Gifford Novices Handicap Chase (Prize-money £30,000)PAUL NICHOLLS: 5.20 As De Mee, Some Buckle, CaliptoWILLIE MULLINS: No runnersNicholls can cash in with SOME BUCKLE, who opened his account over fences in good style at Haydock last month, appearing to relish the sound surface. Stablemate Calipto is a good horse and must also have sound place claims.OUTCOME: 1 Some Buckle, 2 Thomas Crapper, 3 Calipto5.55 - bet365 Handicap Hurdle (Prize-money £30,000)PAUL NICHOLLS: Qualando, Red Hanrahan, Alcala, ChartbreakerWILLIE MULLINS: McKinley, Burgas, Bellow MomeThe progressive BELLOW MOME looks the pick for Mullins, but staying-on Taunton runner-up QUALANDO is also respected for Nicholls. Both trainers might find it tough if Ma Du Fou makes amends from a rather puzzling run at Aintree.OUTCOME: 1 Ma Du Fou, 2 Qualando, 3 Bellow Mome, 4 MatoricoCONCLUSION: Willie Mullins to claim two victories on the card, but Some Buckle and a raft of placed horses can haul Paul Nicholls over the line.Mullins following trail blazed by the great Vincent OBrienWillie Mullins will join exalted company should he defeat Paul Nicholls to claim what has been an enthralling race for Britains trainers title.The Closutton handler would emulate the great Vincent OBrien, who broke new ground when crowned champion in two successive campaigns in 1952-53 and 1953-54.Considering what OBrien went on to do on the Flat, no one ever imagined his feat would be repeated on UK shores.OBrien was a trainer without parallel and was very much a pioneer and an innovator. For example, he was the first trainer to use flying as a means of transporting horses across sea.He saw the advantage of horses going on an away day rather than be absent from their usual surroundings overnight or longer.Times may have changed enormously in those 62 years, but like OBrien in his day, Mullins is a supreme master of his trade.Totally dedicated to the sport and always willing to learn and try new techniques, both quickly realised you have to be a step ahead of your contemporaries if you are to be number one. Once there, you must continue with that philosophy and double your efforts.OBriens success was remarkable. He is the only man to have trained three consecutive Grand National winners and with three different horses - Early Mist (1953), Royal Tan (1954) and Quare Times (1955).He did the same in the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Cottage Rake who was the first to win the blue riband three years in a row, between 1948-50.Hattons Grace won three successive Champion Hurdles (1949-51) for OBrien and was also successful on the Flat, winning the Irish Lincolnshire in 1949 and the Irish Cesarewitch.Mullins has made his mark in the Grand National and the three top Cheltenham races and he does not too badly with his little forays to the big Flat meetings. He has had four winners at Royal Ascot, though not yet anywhere near the level of OBrien because he concentrates chiefly on the jumps.Amazingly, OBrien had never been to Cheltenham before 1948 when he had the first of 23 Festival winners that spanned up until 1959 and he never drew a blank there.In that time he won the Gloucestershire Hurdle, the forerunner of the Supreme Novices Hurdle, 10 times.Strangely, after beginning the 1950s as champion jumps trainer in Ireland, he was beaten first Tom Dreaper and then Paddy Sleator as his focus turned to Britain.That has not happened to Mullins. His dominance in Ireland is stronger than ever, despite the emergence of young trainers such as Gordon Elliott. His first title came in 2000/1 when he split Noel Meades total of eight in nine years and it has been his alone since 2007-08.This is the first season Mullins has really had a go at winning the British title, starting by tackling the big Saturday races, which the UKs top two, Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson, have usually farmed in recent times.Cheltenham was the only meeting he really targeted until this year, when he sent a big team to Aintree without compromising his chances at the big Easter Festival at Fairyhouse and the end-of-season meeting at Punchestown in late April.Not only do you need the right ammunition, but even the best horses have to be primed to be at their best for the big races, wherever and whenever they may be.Mullins has proved a dab-hand at that and whatever happens on Saturday, he has set the bar staggeringly high, just as OBrien did before him.Nicholls: Weve given it our best shotPaul Nicholls intends to be gracious in victory or defeat as his enthralling title battle with Willie Mullins comes to what promises to be a thrilling conclusion at Sandown on Saturday.By his own admission this season has been a relatively low-key one for the master of Ditcheat, and yet he is tantalisingly close to being crowned Britains champion National Hunt trainer for the 10th time.Mullins - aiming to become the first Irish-based trainer to be claim the British crown since Vincent OBrien in the 1950s - has remarkably trained less than 30 winners this side of the Irish Sea this term, but his dominance of the top-class events at Cheltenham and Aintree this spring - where he saddled seven and six winners respectively - looked to have put him in a commanding position.However, Nicholls came roaring back last weekend, with Vicentes Scottish Grand National triumph the highlight of an Ayr four-timer and he has continued in similarly spectacular form since to ensure he now holds the aces ahead of the final day.Weve had a great season and being competitive you want to win the championship. We want to keep it in the UK rather than it go to Ireland, said Nicholls.ts been quite tough this year. We only had five winners by October 1 and we didnt have the Grade One horses weve had in the past.Arguably we only have one Grade One horse in training, Silviniaco Conti, and he has had more than his share of problems this season.You cant just go out and buy horses like Kauto Star and Master Minded any more. Those days are gone.We have concentrated on recruiting and bringing on promising young horses for the future such as our juveniles and the group of bumper horses that have been so successful lately.Nicholls insists he is proud of the yards achievements this season, no matter what the result this weekend, and if he does come up short, he will be happy to congratulate the new champion.He told Betfair: Im thrilled that we have won over 120 races, earning over #2.3million in prize-money for their owners and we have had more winners than any other yard this season, which is, I think, a first for us.I do tend to feel the pressure on these big days because I hate the idea of letting people down when things dont work out.But ours has always been a team effort and I am encouraged by all the messages of support that we have had in the past few days.Weve fought back and kept chipping away and last Saturday was a big day for us.Me and Willie Mullins get on great. We always shake hands and we text from time to time if we want to help each other.Hes a gentleman, hes a brilliant trainer and we have huge respect for each other. Weve always got on great and always will do.Win or lose we have given it our best shot and if Willie Mullins is crowned champion trainer on Saturday I will be the first to shake his hand and say well done.With significant ground to make up, for most trainers the battle would be as good as over with only one day remaining, but the Mullins army is out in force in Esher.The likes of Un De Sceaux, Valseur Lido and Vroum Vroum Mag are all major contenders on a fantastic card, but the trainers son and assistant Patrick is hopeful rather than confident that the Closutton team can wrestle back the advantage.He said: Its a big day and I think the general feeling in the yard at the moment is were up against it.We might have to have four or five winners on the day, which is not impossible but its a tough ask as when you need things like that to happen theres normally one that either gets beat or falls.Paul has two or three in a few of the races, so even if we win them, hes chipping away at us all the time picking up prize-money.You never know, though, and I think well all be heading over there and well see what happens.Its great to be in this position and you never know when it might happen again.It would be fantastic to win it but its the end of the world.Whats interesting is when Vincent OBrien won the English title in the 1950s he wasnt actually champion trainer in Ireland which is a strange piece of information.If it can be done, great, but if Paul manages to retain his title fair play to him. 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. Ricciardo made it only halfway around the Jerez track before his RB10 rolled to a stop and began spouting smoke from the back. After team mechanics tended to the car, Ricciardo went back out for a mere two trips around the circuit before calling it quits.As 2014 winds to a close, TSN.ca looks back at the stories and moments that made the year memorable. TSN.cas writing staff reflects on the best basketball moments from the past 12 months including T-Ross big night, LeBron overheating, the Sixers not-so-epic fail and more! T-Ross drops 51 on Lob City By Mitchell Machtinger The stage had already been set for a night of highlights. With the Toronto Raptors hosting the Los Angeles Clippers, or ‘Lob City’, the expectation of Top 10-worthy dunks and alley-oops was in the air. The Raptors had caught fire after trading Rudy Gay and the team was playing exciting basketball. Little did anyone realize that it would be the Raptors’ own Terrence Ross who would steal the show. Ross began the night averaging 9.3 points per game, making this occasion even more special. The 22-year-old shot 10-of-17 from three-point range, including buzzer beaters to end the first and third quarters. There was a buzz that filled the arena as he crept closer to the franchise record. With four seconds left in a game that had already been decided, Ross stepped to the free throw line for two shots and with 50 points. He hit the first shot to tie the record. Ross had been perfect from the line all night. The second shot bounced off the back of the rim and the game was over. In one night, Ross had caught magic and scored 51 points, setting a career-high and tying Vince Carter’s franchise record. The Raptors lost the game, but Ross’ hot shooting is what will be remembered. -- Things Heat Up in San Antonio By Shane McNeil With LeBron “going home” during the summer, is it possible that the entire Big Three era in Miami will end up playing like some kind of hardcourt fever-dream? After all, the team enjoyed nearly unprecedented success almost immediately after assembly and looked primed for a dynasty after winning back-to-back NBA Finals over Kevin Durant’s Thunder and the previously perfect San Antonio Spurs. But a funny thing happened on the way to a three-peat. Things got, well, kinda hot. The first half of Finals Game 1 was a back-and-forth affair, picking up where the 2013 Finals left off. Near the end of that half, the temperature started to rise. It started with fanning in the fans, then there was ice on the bench. Then, with four minutes left on the clock, LeBron James finished a lay-up and cramped. He cramped so bad that he couldn’t run back on defence... So bad that Dwyane Wade had to escort him to the bench… So bad that the Heat’s training staff had to carry him to the dressing room. At that point the Spurs were up 94-92. They would finish the game with an 18-1 run. The Heat would win Game 2, but looked otherwise ordinary in a five-game series loss. Less than a month later, LeBron wrote a letter to Cleveland and the NBA woke up. -- Kevin Durant Serves Notice By Ken Rodney With his team down two points on the road in double overtime against the Toronto Raptors and his running mate - arguably one of the best point guards in the NBA - Russell Westbrook injured earlier in the contest, Kevin Durant buried a three-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to secure a 119-118 victory for the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 21, 2014. The visitors had actually fallen behind by eight points in the second overtime period and the game looked to be slipping away from them, bbefore Durant hit two from distance on either side of a Derek Fisher triple to steal a hard fought victory away from a surging Raptors squad.dddddddddddd The clutch shot was so much more than that though, it completed an incredible 51-point performance that included seven three-pointers, 12 rebounds, seven assists and erased any lingering doubts about who should be crowned Most Valuable Player in the NBA. After three second place finishes, including the previous two seasons, Durant was finally crowned MVP for the first time in 2013-2014 and while it was well deserved for the entire season, his performance against the Raptors went a long way to proving his case. -- Raps fans turn Maple Leaf Square into Jurassic Park By Ryan Horne After the Maple Leafs fell apart down the stretch, the Raptors were the lone team in Toronto playing in the post-season, and their fans took advantage of it. No longer was the area in front of the Air Canada Centre called Maple Leaf Square, it had become Jurassic Park. The previous spring, the Leafs’ faithful filled the square to cheer on their team and Raptors’ fans did the same this time around, but with a little more enthusiasm. Maybe a lot more enthusiasm. Thousands piled into Jurassic Park hours before every game (even if was raining) and were loud until the final buzzer, not giving up on their team if they were losing or blowing a massive 26-point lead (see Game 5). Although, just like the previous year when the Leafs gave up a three-goal lead against the Boston Bruins, Raptors’ fans left Jurassic Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon in a sour mood after a heartbreaking Game 7 defeat to the Brooklyn Nets. Despite the unfortunate ending, Toronto showed they have one of the most passionate fan bases in the Association and as result gave the Raptors more respect and appreciation from the American media. A silver lining if there ever was one. ?-- The Sixers Can’t Even Tank Well By Mitchell Machtinger Everybody knew exactly what the Philadelphia 76ers were doing. The team had no shame in unofficially tanking the season in hopes of acquiring Andrew Wiggins with the first overall pick in the draft. Except it didn’t work out according to plan. The year before, Philadelphia drafted big man Nerlens Noel with the sixth pick, knowing full well that he would sit out the year due to injury. Philadelphia finished the season with a 19-63 record, the second worst in the league only because the Milwaukee Bucks had been decimated by injuries. The team managed only one win over February and March. They filled out the roster throughout the year with a rotation of D-League call-ups. Of the 23 players to suit up for Philadelphia last season, 11 are not on an NBA roster this year. That’s how bad this team was. The team had offloaded anybody they could to acquire a boatload of future draft picks. Despite tying an NBA record with 26 consecutive losses, the 76ers dropped all the way to the third overall pick, who they used to draft another centre who also won’t play his first year because of an injury. If there was one bright spot of the season it would be the play of point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who was named Rookie of the Year. The future may prove bright in the end with all this young talent, but 2014 won’t bring up many positive memories for 76ers fans. ' ' '