Silviniaco Conti’s impressive two-length win over Menorah in Haydock’s Betfair Chase meant big-race victories in consecutive weekends for eight-time British champion trainer Paul Nicholls, after Caid Du Berlais swooped late to take Cheltenham’s Paddy Power Gold Cup seven days previously.
Nicholls’ string of nags are clearly coming along nicely as the jumps season hots up, with 10 of the 52-year-old’s last 34 runners besting all around them, and there’s every reason to believe he can bring up a primetime treble this Saturday.
As a jockey during the mid-1980s, Nicholls won Newbury’s Hennessy Gold Cup in consecutive seasons for trainer David Barron, aboard Broadheath and Playschool, and also claimed the Irish equivalent at Leopardstown with the latter 27 years ago.
He has been even more successful in the Hennessy as a trainer, winning the race from the stands for the first time with Strong Flow in 2003, before the awesome Denman smashed a couple of decent fields to pieces off top weight in 2007 and 2009.
Nicholls has another prime candidate for the Berkshire spectacle in last year’s runner-up Rocky Creek, currently available at a top-price 10/1 with Ladbrokes.
This is what the Ditcheat handler said a fortnight ago, before Caid Du Berlais’ breathtaking Paddy Power Gold Cup win, with reference to Rocky Creek’s chances following the eight-year-old’s distant second (of eight runners) on his seasonal reappearance at Down Royal:
“He’s that bit stronger now and this will enable him to see his races out better. The handicapper didn’t put him up for Down Royal, so he’ll go for the Hennessy again and must have a big chance.”
Nicholls also went on the record with regard to Rocky Creek’s chances after Silviniaco Conti’s victory:
“Since Down Royal he’s grafted, is in good shape and in a good place with himself. I’m looking forward to the Hennessy.
“He took an awful lot of getting fit and just got tired at Down Royal, but the horse who beat him [Road To Riches] had had two runs.
“If this lad improves as much as Silviniaco Conti did from his first run to Haydock he gives us a great chance.”
Don’t say you weren’t told.
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