National option for Creek
Paul Nicholls is considering a tilt at the Grand National with Rocky Creek after he finished a respectable second in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday.
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Runner-up in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on his seasonal reappearance, the eight-year-old was a 6-4 favourite to put himself in the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture in Saturday's recognised trial.
He ultimately came up short, finishing seven lengths in arrears of The Giant Bolster, and Nicholls believes a setback suffered after his Newbury comeback contributed to his defeat.
"Rocky Creek had a bit of a setback after the Hennessy and I think he might have needed the run on Saturday. We've not had a clear run with him since Newbury and that might just have found him out," said the Ditcheat handler.
"I haven't got any targets in mind for him at the moment, but he will have an entry in the Grand National next week."
Nicholls is similarly expecting further improvement from Unioniste, who finished third under top-weight in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.
He said: "I just feel the run maybe came a bit quick for Unioniste after his run in the Lexus at Leopardstown over Christmas.
"He's a horse who seems to be at his best when fresh, so he won't run for a while now and we'll look for something in the spring."
The one major disappointment on a big Saturday for the former champion trainer was Vicenzo Mio, who finished a well-beaten third in Cheltenham's Triumph Hurdle Trial.
It seems unlikely the four-year-old will now line up in the Triumph Hurdle itself at the Festival in March.
Nicholls said: "My immediate thoughts were that he prefers a flat track and Daryl (Jacob) agreed after the race on Saturday. He ran a similar race on his first run for us at Cheltenham in December. He travelled well and just hasn't got up the hill.
"He was much better on a flatter track like Kempton and for that reason we might have to draw up a different plan for him, but we'll see."
Nicholls ended the day on a high, with Lac Fontana running away with the concluding handicap hurdle.
He said: "He won nicely, but I don't have any plans for him at this stage. We'll see how we go, but the race on Saturday is worlds away from a race like the County Hurdle."