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Rocky Creek drops Coral Welsh National hint

Rocky Creek was cut to 8-1 favourite for the Coral Welsh National after his fine seasonal debut when chasing home Triolo D’Alene in the Hennessy on Saturday. Trainer Paul Nicholls had been quite bullish about the seven-year-olds chances and a trip to Chepstow over Christmas must be considered a serious option.

Rocky Creek missed Cheltenham last year to wait for Aintree but Nicholls insists that he was over the top when trailing home third behind Dynaste. The Ditcheat trainer had put plenty of work into the horse but was a little concerned that the ground was on the fast side.

That will not be a concern at Chepstow, although Nicholls will still think long and hard before committing the gelding to the Chepstow marathon. To run second in the Hennessy off 11st 5lb suggests that he is not that far behind the top steeplechasers.

Also catching the eye in the Newbury feature race were Highland Lodge and Merry King in fourth and fifth respectively. Merry King may represent each-way value at 14-1 having stayed on well in the closing stages and he is a previous winner on heavy ground.

Whilst most of the attention at Fairyhouse on Sunday was focussed on Champion Hurdle hope Jezki, it was the juvenile hurdler Analifet that made the biggest impression on the Cheltenham ante-post market. The filly landed odds of 3-10 under Ruby Walsh with a confident front-running display and is now 8-1 joint favourite for the Triumph Hurdle.

Both jockey and trainer Willie Mullins are in no doubt that she is a decent filly and expect her to take high rank in the juvenile division this season. She shares top spot in the ante-post market with Nicky Henderson’s Royal Irish Hussar.

Don Cossack also jumped to the top of the Cheltenham betting after a hard fought victory on the same card. His narrow win over Carlingford Lough in the Grade 1 Drinmore Novices’ Hurdle was enough to see him cut to 10-1 favourite for the RSA Chase.