Rocky Creek could skip Cheltenham

  • Last Updated: January 19 2013, 8:42 GMT

Paul Nicholls has warned leading RSA Chase contender Rocky Creek is not certain to make the trip to the Cheltenham Festival.

Fago: Being aimed at the Arkle
Fago: Being aimed at the Arkle

Second to Harry Topper on his chasing debut at Exeter in October, the seven-year-old has run out an impressive winner twice since, most recently at Warwick last weekend.

He is as short as 10-1 third favourite for the major prize for staying novice chasers at Cheltenham in March, but Nicholls already has one eye on next season.

"Rocky Creek travelled and won really impressively at Warwick, and he will obviously be given an entry in the Sun Alliance (RSA)," the champion trainer said in his Betfair column.

"But I view Rocky Creek as very much a horse for next season, and I am already looking forward to the Hennessy with him. So I wouldn't mind missing Cheltenham with him, like we did with Silviniaco Conti last year, and going to Aintree.

"But obviously nothing will be decided until I sit down with Andy Stewart and David Johnson (owners), though I think a race such as the Reynoldstown at Ascot could be an option for his next start.

"Wherever he goes next, and whatever he does this season though, he is a proper horse for the future."

One Nicholls-trained horse for whom Cheltenham is very much on the agenda is Fago, a French recruit who is being targeted at the Arkle Trophy following his impressive British debut at Newbury earlier this week.

"I was also delighted with Fago at Newbury and the Arkle has to be on the agenda for him now, although he will also be entered in the Jewson," said Nicholls.

"He had a hard race over two miles and six furlongs on his final start in France in November, so we have taken our time with him. And he has put on a whole heap of weight since he came to us, about 30 kilograms.

"So you had to be impressed with his win at Newbury, where he jumped beautifully on the whole.

"I don't want to get carried away or start making wild comparisons, but he is similar to Master Minded in that we have stepped him down in trip since getting him from France. And he looked to have all the speed in the world at Newbury.

"He could go to the Kingmaker at Warwick or Sandown next, before any firm Cheltenham plans are made for him."

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