Record-breaking temperatures for February across Britain of late, but the long-range weather forecast, if it can be believed, suggests there will be plenty of rain between now and the start of the Cheltenham Festival.

One person who will be delighted with the forecast is Colin Tizzard whose Native River bids to become the first horse to win back-to-back Gold Cups since Best Mate won three on the bounce between 2002-04.

Stamina won the day for Native River 12 months ago and if the rains arrive he is likely to be vying for favouritism on the day with Presenting Percy. At present Native River is 5/1 with BetVictor (NRNB) and Presenting Percy 11/4 for the feature race of the Festival.


At Wincanton this afternoon it is hard to oppose Ostuni (1.50) who bolted up at Fontwell on Sunday under Bryony Frost and looks the type to run up a sequence for Paul Nicholls. The excellent Frost keeps the ride this afternoon.

Overland Flyer is very well treated on his best form and this drop back in trip will suit in the 2m 4f Handicap Chase, but he didn’t cry out “next-time-out winner” when returning from a break after wind surgery last time. A check of the market is advised however.

A chance is taken on Dentley De Mee (2.50) who was not beaten far in one of the premier novice handicaps of the season at Cheltenham last time from a 2lbs higher mark. The selection is still a maiden over fences but has won on fast ground over timber and this represents a slight drop in grade. Teenager Opening Batsman and Silverhow are respected – indeed the latter would have been the selection on softer ground.

Not So Sleepy is entitled to improve on his hurdles debut and this sharp track should suit. Colloonley (3.25) scrambled home at Bangor last time and is penalised for that narrow success, but his previous second to Brandon Castle is useful novice hurdle form and he can follow up for Olly Murphy and Aidan Coleman.


Tikkapick will be all the rage to follow up last week’s Taunton win under a 7lbs penalty but I am going to give his stablemate Sizing Brisbane (4.30) a narrow vote. The selection has cut little ice since moving to Britain, but he has tumbled down the weights and this will be the fastest ground he has encountered. He is lightly raced for one of his age (11-y-old) and certainly has the scope to make his mark over fences.


Ostuni (1.50) 

Dentley De Mee (2.50) 

Colloonley (3.25) 

Sizing Brisbane (4.30) 


At Musselburgh Royal Reserve (4.20) has been raised 5lbs for scoring at Newcastle last month and Blair Campbell’s 5lbs claim negates the rise. He had not looked a natural over timber previously but is clearly well treated on his flat form for Michael Bell. Great to see Donald McCain back having runners after his yard was given the all-clear following the outbreak of equine flu earlier in the month.


Royal Reserve (4.20) 


An eight-raced card at Kempton this evening and Elliot The Dragon would be something to bet on if you knew he would settle better than he has in his previous couple of starts. He is only 2lbs higher than when scoring over C&D last month, but he almost pulled the arms off Callum Shepherd and he may need luck in running – even if he is more amenable to restraint from stall one.

Marginal preference, however, is for Magicinthemaking (5.30) who remains in good heart, has a decent draw and must go close although there doesn’t appear to be much pace in the race which is a concern given, she too, can take a strong hold.


In the 12f Novice event Heart Of Soul is interesting for Ian Williams in the colours of Dr Marwan Koukash although he may be seen to better effect back on turf – no surprise if we saw him at Chester in May.

Gumball is a horse I have plenty of time for and he has a pipe-opener on the level ahead of a possible tilt at the County Hurdle, but the vote must go to Champion Hurdle contender Verdana Blue (6.30) was last seen at Kempton winning the Christmas Hurdle. The mare is 10/1 (NRNB) for the Champion Hurdle in less than a fortnight’s time and the hope is that this is an ideal prep for the big one.

There was plenty of money for Me Too Nagasaki (7.00) over this evening’s C&D earlier in the month, but he was too keen both on the way to post and during the race. He is 3lbs lower in the weights tonight and it will be interesting to see if connections try and recoup their losses. Rampant Lion returns from a near three-month lay-off, but a market move would be worth noting.


Magicinthemaking (5.30) 

Verdana Blue (6.30) 

Me Too Nagasaki (7.00) 

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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