Melodic Rendezvous could clash with Puffin Billy in the Bathwick Tyres Plymouth Novices’ Hurdle at Exeter on February 10, after trainer Jeremy Scott ruled his Tolworth Hurdle winner out of a trip to Ireland.
The Grade One winner holds an entry in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown but the prevailing soft ground in Ireland means he is a doubtful runner.
Instead, the Listed event at Exeter – picked out by Oliver Sherwood as the next port of call for Puffin Billy – is likely to offer a huge Cheltenham Festival clue.
“I think it’s unlikely he’ll travel,” said Exmoor-based Scott. “The main reason we entered him was in the hope of better ground but there looks to be little chance of that at present.
“It’s much more likely that he’ll go to Exeter for the Listed race there, or there’s even an option at Newbury. They are racing on a bog over there at present so there seems little point in going over.”
Scott’s other Festival contender, Empiracle, is prominent in the betting for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper. He has been the subject of several offers but Scott said: “He’s still with us and on target.”
No extra entries were received for the reopened Betfred Mobile Lotto Challengers Novices’ Chase at Sandown on Saturday.
Nicky Henderson’s Captain Conan is the headline act in the race better known as the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, having already won at Grade One level.
In any other yard, he would be a massive hope for the Arkle but, with Simonsig also hailing from Seven Barrows, Henderson is keen to see if the two-and-a-half-mile trip suits.
Somerset-based trainer Paul Nicholls has entered Rebel Rebellion rather than Unioniste, who was due to tackle Captain Conan in a novice chase which was subsequently scrapped due to a lack of runners.
Trainer Venetia Williams is enjoying a great season and her Houblon Des Obeaux has shown a smart level of form this season.
Changing Times is progressing for Nigel Twiston-Davies while Lucinda Russell has put in Tap Night, who also holds an entry at Musselburgh on Sunday. Top Smart and Third Intention complete the list.
Six-times Group One race-winning mare Midday has given birth to her first foal at Juddmonte Farms’ Banstead Manor Stud.
The Sir Henry Cecil-trained daughter of Oasis Dream enjoyed a fantastic career, before being retired at the end of 2011. On January 16, the seven-year-old gave birth to a Galileo colt, described by stud manager Simon Mockridge as “strong and muscular, an excellent first foal”. Midday will visit Frankel later this year.