Grand National: Rocky out to floor his Aintree rivals
Paul Nicholls has a strong trio entered in the Crabbies’ Grand Natioinal, and the lighly raced a highly progressive Rocky Creek is arguably the most interesting of his team.
The Ditcheat handler had initially decide to swerve the National with the horse in favour of a crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup after he was allotted 11st 5lb in the weights for the 4m 4f contest.
However, a bout of ringworm caused him to miss the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree is now firmly back on the agenda.
His connections believe that his illness may well turn out to be a “blessing in disguise” as he is now fit, well and fresh going into the April 5th contest.
The form of the eight-year-old’s two runs this season also have a solid look to them, and suggest he is not as badly handicapped as first envisaged.
The gelding, who is 25/1 wwith Coral for the Grand National, ran a stormer on his seasonal reappearance in the Hennessy at Newbury when finishing a 2 3/4 length runner-up to Trio D’Alene and is now set to meet that rival on 5lb better terms.
The son of Dr Masini then backed up that run last time out in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham, where he finished a seven length second to The Giant Bolster.
He was attempting to give David Bridgwater’s established star chaser 5lb, and it was a cracking effort given that the winner went on to be beaten just 3/4 of a length when finishing third to Lord Windermere in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Judged on that run, Rocky Creek would have gone close in the Gold Cup and he should also have more to offer over fences given that was just his seventh start over the larger obstacles.
He has won three and is yet to finish out of the frame in his runs over fences, and is a sound jumper who has a high cruising speed and a turn of foot.
His handler also knows what it takes to win the race having saddled Neptune Collonges to triumph in 2012, and he will be partnered by Noel Fehily who is riding better than ever this season.
History also shows that although it is unusual for winners of the Hennessy to go on and win the Grand National, horses that have run in the race or been placed have done very well.
Bindaree, Red Marauder, Earth Summit and Rough Quest all ran in the Hennessy before going on to win the Aintree showpiece in the same season, so that augurs well for the chances of Rocky Creek.