Rev-ed up for Cheltenham
Chris Wilson thinks Reve De Sivola is a worthy ally on what should be an outstanding afternoon of sport at Cheltenham.
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CHELTENHAM: 12.10 Roc D'Apsis, 12.40 Johns Spirit, 1.15 Katenko, 1.50 Sprinter Sacre, 2.25 Grands Crus, 3.00 The New One, 3.35 REVE DE SIVOLA (NAP), 4.10 Sadler's Risk.
LEOPARDSTOWN: 1.10 Ibsen, 1.45 Arvika Ligeonniere, 2.15 Marito, 2.45 Organisedconfusion, 3.20 Burn And Turn, 3.50 City Slicker, 4.25 Spa Hill.
LINGFIELD: 12.20 Charter, 12.50 Harlestone Wood, 1.25 Jack My Boy, 2.00 Reginald Claude, 2.35 Loyalty, 3.10 Robin Hoods Bay, 3.45 Lager Time, 4.15 Bert The Alert.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 1.40 Sewn Up, 2.15 Waking Warrior, 2.50 Liberty Love, 3.25 Anaconda, 4.00 Lieutenant Dan, 4.30
Phils Wish, 5.00 Outlaw Torn, 5.30 Subtle Difference.
DOUBLE: Reve De Sivola and The New One.
Reve De Sivola is a worthy ally on what should be an outstanding afternoon of sport at Cheltenham.
Festival Trials Day is nearly always an exceptional meeting, but this season's programme takes on greater credence with the staging of the Victor Chandler Chase, held over from last weekend's abandoned Ascot fixture.
Nicky Henderson has all bases covered in that race with the brilliant Sprinter Sacre, while the Seven Barrows handler will also have high hopes in the Rewards4Racing Cleeve Hurdle, as Oscar Whisky attempts to stretch his unbeaten record to three wins this season.
However, his only try over this three-mile trip, in last season's Ladbrokes World Hurdle, was unsatisfactory as he laboured into fifth spot behind Big Buck's.
Although connections insist something was amiss with Oscar Whisky that day, there are, at this stage, too many question marks hanging over his ability to go the distance.
To that end, he can be passed over for Reve De Sivola.
Trainer Nick Williams has had to be very patient with this eight-year-old, who won two Grades Ones in his novice hurdle days but was forced on to the sidelines for a year through injury.
But his return to action, in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury at the beginning of December, at least showed some of the old staying qualities remained intact as he chased home Big Buck's into second spot.
Even so, few could have anticipated what was to come at Ascot later that month as Reve De Sivola absolutely battered a decent field in the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle.
His winning distance may have been exaggerated by the desperate ground in Berkshire that day, but even the mighty Big Buck's could have been given a run for his money had he been fit, such was the fluent nature of his hurdling.
By contrast to Oscar Whisky, Reve De Sivola now has nothing to prove over three miles, while the odds of it being very testing at Cheltenham are short given the recent snowfall and forecast of weekend rain.
Reve De Sivola's fondness for a skirmish in the mud could make him fallible for the World Hurdle in March, when the ground is rarely not perfect, so this is clearly a logical time in which to get involved.
The New One was another striking winner last time out and is deeply respected for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle.
Nigel Twiston-Davies is cautiously optimistic this one could go to the top after he preserved his unbeaten run over hurdles in a Grade Two at Warwick two weeks ago.
This looks tougher, but he is clearly an exciting individual and has already won twice before at Prestbury Park.
The Argento Chase suddenly looks wide open following the defection of the Henderson-trained Bobs Worth, but it could pay to side with Grands Crus.
David Pipe's grey was admittedly well held in the King George, but that was his first run since he underwent a wind operation and he is entitled to be a lot sharper here.
Robin Hoods Bay would not be winning out of turn when he reports for duty in Lingfield's feature race.
Ed Vaughan's five-year-old has been in decent nick this winter, with a convincing success at Wolverhampton the highlight.
The gelded son of Motivator is 7lb higher these days, but has consistently held his form in reasonable races and was not beaten far at all behind the in-form Loyalty earlier this month.
Vaughan's aspirant encountered quite a bit of trouble in running on that occasion, so that game effort deserves even greater scrutiny.
He also proved capable at this level, too, as he got to within a neck of Tinshu over course and distance in November.
Robin Hoods Bay meets that rival on better terms in the lingfieldpark.co.uk Handicap, so it is conceivable he can reverse the form.
Ryan Moore's first-time booking must also be factored into the equation.
Harlestone Wood really ought to be winning the Lingfield Park Owners Group Maiden Stakes.
The four-year-old did well enough last year, without winning, and was hardly disgraced on his comeback over this course and distance a fortnight ago.
Peter Hedger's inmate went down by just a neck to the highly-regarded Megastar, with the third home some eight lengths adrift.
With similarly sharp rivals thin on the ground here, the streetwise Harlestone Wood looks in a commanding position in which to finally exorcise his winless hex.
Best bet on Wolverhampton's card could be Anaconda, who runs in the Claim Free Bets Today At bookmakers.co.uk Conditions Stakes.
Tom Dascombe's four-year-old missed an engagement at Lingfield last weekend due to the bad weather, but is head and shoulders above these on the ratings.
Dascombe hopes to send his charge to Dubai this spring so a big display at Dunstall Park is needed if those ambitions are to be fulfilled.