PAUL Nicholls was thrilled yesterday after his 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National hopes Rocky Creek and Tidal Bay impressed in a racecourse gallop at Wincanton. Sam Twiston-Davies got the leg-up on Tidal Bay with Noel Fehily partnering Rocky Creek in the two-mile half-speed workout. Nicholls said he would now keep Tidal Bay, who is 16-1 second favourite for the race a week on Saturday, “ticking over”. He has also told Twiston-Davies to study footage of the ride Daryl Jacob gave Neptune Collonges when he won the 2012 race as he feels a similar hold-up ride will suit the 13-year-old veteran.
Twiston-Davies said: “He was brilliant. We did two miles and he was still pulling after a mile and a half, so I couldn’t be more happy with him. The way he walks in here, you couldn’t believe how old he is. He feels in great form.”
Nicholls was also pleased with Rocky Creek, who had to miss the recent Cheltenham Gold Cup because he was suffering from ringworm, adding: “He could have run really well in that [the Gold Cup]. But, anyway, we’re in the National now and looking forward to it.
“He’s got a little bit to prove because he was second last time at Cheltenham in January but I think he is capable of running really, really well.”
Meanwhile, the Midlands Grand National winner Goulanes will miss the Aintree race with trainer David Pipe saying the eight-year-old gelding will be aimed at next year’s big race instead.
Pipe said: “He was fine after the race, but has gone back to his owners for a holiday and appeals as a likely type for the National next season.”
Pipe, who won the Aintree marathon with Comply Or Die in 2008, is likely to have three runners this year in Our Father, The Package and Swing Bill.
A total of 73 entries remain in the Grand National 2014, with a maximum of 40 lining up. If, as expected, the race remains over-subscribed, the lowest-rated horses will be balloted out.