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Walsh's high hopes of strong Rubi Gold Cup run

RUBY WALSH feels Rubi Ball could be a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender as long as the ground is soft.

Sent to Willie Mullins having enjoyed a great career in France, Rubi Ball ran a blinder in the Lexus over Christmas, finishing third behind Bobs Worth.

The Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 9 is likely to be his next target and Walsh believes if the ground is softer than last month, he will take a good deal of beating.

"We were delighted with Rubi Ball's run in the Lexus. He was third, just behind First Lieutenant on his first run over fences in Ireland as all his runs before that had been in France. It was something new for him, but we loved the way he travelled and jumped," said Walsh.

"He had a lot of form in France on softer ground and Leopardstown over Christmas was only good to soft at worst. He'll have another run, probably in the Hennessy, and if it was a bit softer I'd be hoping he could go close and he could turn into a Gold Cup horse.

"He's going the right way and we were delighted with his run.

"It will be a very good Gold Cup. Silviniaco Conti stayed really well at Kempton and Cheltenham won't inconvenience him, he'll get home over three and a quarter (miles). I was very impressed with the way Bobs Worth quickened up at Leopardstown after the last, you could almost see his stride lengthen.

"Barry (Geraghty) was impressed and he's a good judge. He has an excellent record at Cheltenham."

Paul Nicholls appears to have a strong hand with six of the 50 entries for the £75,000 Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on January 25.

Stablemates Unioniste and Sam Winner have been installed as 12/1 joint-favourites by the sponsors with fellow Ditcheat raiders including The Minack, Pacha Du Polder, Mon Parrain and Harry The Viking all engaged.

Course and distance winner Night In Milan will have plenty of supporters following his all-the-way win on Town Moor before Christmas but his trainer Keith Reveley expects him to find it more difficult to dominate in a larger field.

"The Sky Bet Chase is the plan for Night In Milan. He won really well last time and deserved to win a nice handicap because he is a solid, consistent horse," said the Saltburn handler.

"He has been in good form since and obviously likes the track at Doncaster, so fingers crossed. He has gone up the weights a little bit, but is still a young horse and there might be a little bit of improvement there. The only slight concern would be that he is unlikely to get an easy lead in a race like the Sky Bet. He is definitely happier out in front, bowling along with an easy lead, but he won't get that. We will just have to hope he settles in second or third and takes a lead."

Martin Keighley has entered his Grade One-winning novice Annacotty, who dented some lofty reputations in the Feltham on St Stephen's Day, and Faultless Feelings, but only one of the two would run as they are both under the same ownership.

Keighley said: "Annacotty is a possible for the Sky Bet Chase as I think the flat, galloping track at Doncaster will really suit him, though he will have an entry at Cheltenham the same day.

"The handicapper would love me to run him in a handicap to see if he's got him right and it is tempting.