Tidal Bay may skip Gold Cup at Leopardstown
Tidal Bay, which is being aimed at the Grand National on April 5, had been as low as 4/1 for the Leopardstown showpiece, but now Nicholls is considering another option, the Denman Chase at Newbury.
"It is easier to go to Newbury for the Denman, what with the travel and the weather, but I want to look at both races. If it is very testing, he could run in the Denman, and Al Ferof could miss it and go straight to Cheltenham," the Ditcheat handler explained.
"I would love Al Ferof to run at Newbury, it is a good stepping stone, and John Hales is very keen to run him in the Gold Cup. But if it were testing at Cheltenham, then the Ryanair, over two-and-a-half miles, is an option."
Nicky Henderson's Triolo D'Alene, winner of the Hennessy on the Berkshire track, could return to the venue as he continues his build-up for the Crabbie's Grand National. Kim Bailey is considering running Harry Topper following his third in the Argento Chase, while Highland Lodge, Katenko, Menorah, Third Intention, Vino Griego and Walkon make up the Denman 10.
The latest word from the Leopardstown track is that the ground is likely to be soft at the very least. "We had a good bit of rain over the weekend, but it has eased up now. We are heavy in some parts of the track," said racing and operations manager Nessa Joyce.
"The rest of the week is looking mixed. Sunday itself is looking like a pretty decent day. The track is holding up pretty well, although we do have heavy patches at the moment."
Gigginstown House Stud have six initial entries for Sunday's feature at the Foxrock venue, but the two most likely to line up are current ante-post favourite First Lieutenant and Last Instalment.
Rubi Ball looks set to be the leading representative from the Willie Mullins yard. A respectable third to Bobs Worth in the Lexus, on just his second run for Mullins, the French import has been installed 11/4 second favourite to record his first success on Irish soil.
"I was very pleased with the way he jumped and I am looking forward to going back to Leopardstown for the Hennessy on Sunday," said Mullins.
Mullins, meanwhile, plans to run Triumph Hurdle favourite Ivan Grozny in the Grade One Gala Retail Spring Juvenile Hurdle, in which he could renew rivalry with his Christmas conqueror Plinth from the Aidan O'Brien yard.
Ballycasey and Champagne Fever both schooled after racing at Punchestown on Sunday and are entered in the Grade One Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase, but only one of the Rich Ricci-owned geldings will run.
One horse which will not be seen at Leopardstown is promising novice chaser Morning Assembly, which was entered in the the Dr PJ Moriarty Chase.
Second to Carlingford Lough over Christmas, trainer Pat Fahy has indicated that his stable star will head straight to next month's RSA Chase at Cheltenham without another run.
Elsewhere, Sam Twiston-Davies intends to be back in action at Market Rasen after escaping serious injury in a nasty-looking fall at Southwell.