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Rocky Creek a worthy Gold Cup second string

Seven-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls believes Rocky Creek is a powerful second string to his bow in the Cheltenham Gold Cup

The eight-year-old had been touted as a leading hope for the Crabbie’s Grand National after finishing runner-up in the Hennessy at Newbury on his first start this season, but after being allotted 11st 5lb in the Aintree spectacular Nicholls is now favouring a crack at chasing the blue riband.

The Ditcheat handler, who has saddled four winners and seven places in the Gold Cup since 1999, said: “Rocky Creek has an entry in the National and Gold Cup and I suspect he’ll run at Cheltenham – he’s not thrown in at the weights at Aintree.

“He ran a good race in the Hennessy but then had colic afterwards. We then had to rush him a bit and he got tired in the Argento Chase, he probably wasn’t as fit as he should have been. He’ll have a racecourse gallop somewhere to get his fitness up.

“I think he’s capable of running a big race in the Gold Cup, I’m not saying he’ll win but he could easily get in the frame. He’s a decent staying chaser and he’ll get the trip. He won over three miles in the Reynoldstown Chase last year.”

Coral go 40/1 for the Gold Cup, in which Nicholls leading hope is the current 7/2 second favourite Silviniaco Conti.

The eight-year-old provided Nicholls with his eighth King George VI Chase victory on Boxing Day, and his handler believes he is now a stronger horse than when coming to grief three from home in last year’s Gold Cup when still traveling ominously well.

“Silviniaco is one of the favourites for the Gold Cup and I thought he was traveling extremely well in last year’s race. I think he was going to finish first or second but who knows?” said Nicholls.

“We have done things a bit differently this season. Last time our aim was to win the Betfair Chase so he went to the Charlie Hall first and this time his aim was the King George so we went to the Betfair first and he improved for the run.

“His stamina kicked in when he won the King George and I think he has a leading chance in the Gold Cup. He is the right age and has strengthened up. They are all dangers in the race but Bobs Worth is probably the one to beat, he’s unbeaten at Cheltenham.”