SAM Twiston-Davies believes there are more positives than negatives for the well-handicapped Rocky Creek ahead of a second tilt at the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree on Saturday.
Unpenalised for an impressive success in the BetBright Chase at Kempton in February – the race came four days after the publication of the National weights – the Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old attempts to improve upon last season’s fifth-placed finish at Aintree.
“I schooled him on Monday morning, he was in great order and jumped 42 obstacles,” said his jockey who rode Hello Bud to a fifth-placed finish in 2010 when just a 17-year-old rider. “He was very good, very fresh, and seems very well. He ran round there last year and was very good. There’s a lot of positives and not so many negatives.”
After leading the field at one stage in last year’s National, Rocky Creek eventually faded, leaving a question mark hanging over his ability to stay the near four-and-a-half-mile trip.
However, Twiston-Davies is banking on a National-focused preparation yielding further improvement for a horse who is co-owned by the Stewart and Johnson families.
He added: “When you look at him, obviously the one question is, ‘Will he stay?’ He jumped the last in front last year, but he was almost trained for the Gold Cup, whereas this year he’s been trained for the Grand National. Hopefully that gives him every chance.”
Dr Richard Newland believes last year’s National hero Pineau De Re has become the “forgotten horse” heading into the weekend.
The 12-year-old has endured a largely disappointing campaign over hurdles since his moment of glory 12 months ago, but his trainer believes his charge may be peaking at exactly the right time.
“Pineau is fine. Daryl (Jacob) came to do his last piece of work on him on Monday and everything went really well,” said Newland.
“I think he’s become the forgotten horse in the race. There are a number of horses much shorter than him in the betting that were 300 yards behind him 12 months ago.”
Scottish National winner Al Co, trained by Peter Bowen, will be ridden by Denis O’Regan in place of the injury sidelined Jamie Moore.