Richard Rowe has five weeks left to record his best season in National Hunt as a trainer.

The Storrington handler is two short of the 23 winners he saddled ten years ago.

Rowe, 43, who began training in 1991, is confident he can achieve it.

He said: "We have maintained good form throughout the winter in contrast to the last two seasons.

"After Christmas in 2001 and last year, we hit a flat spot when the horses caught colds and viruses. This year, touch wood, we have avoided all that."

Rowe, who rode 550 winners as a jockey, puts the susceptibility to runny noses in his horses down to mild, damp winters of the past couple of years.

He is banking on April showers to pack in the winners needed to break his own record.

He said: "While I have several horses that are able to act on fast going, most would prefer a bit of give in the ground. We need some rain to provide the softer conditions underfoot."

Rowe's Ashleigh House Stables house at least 12 horses who will compete in all weathers until the last day of the season at Sandown Park on April 26.

Adelphi Theatre, owned by Ascot steward Adrian Pratt, runs at Ascot on Tuesday and there will be runners at Huntington and Warwick on Sunday.

Renaloo, Dirk Cove and Flinders are others earmarked for the record-breaking bid.

Jump racing is now organised so the new season begins two days after the old one concludes on Whitbread Day at Sandown and there is no natural break for National Hunt horses.

Rowe said: "We will have a few runners in May and June if it is wet but in August and September the horses will probably have a spell at grass.

"Some horses go to their owners' homes, although most of them stay on our own 30-acres of pasture."

But a successful and confidence-building season has had its down sides liked the injury sustained by Native New Yorker, strongly fancied for the last race at the Cheltenham Festival.

Rowe said: "That was a blow to us and to the owners, John and Ann Symes.

"The horse is recovering well following the operation to pin his cannon bone. The Symes' went to see him at the Arundel Veterinary Hospital and tell me that he is as bright as a button and not at all uncomfortable."

Native New Yorker will return to Ashleigh House next week for a five-week box rest and a couple of months at grass. He lives to fight another day.

Sadly, that cannot be said of Half The Pot, who broke a leg in a Fontwell Park fall on Monday, the day Rowe had a double with Ice Cool Lad and Mazzini.

The trainer said: "Half The Pot was a special favourite. He won six races for us at Fontwell, Plumpton and Folkestone and was almost always in the first four.

"Never have I driven home after having winners feeling quite so miserable."

The loss of Half The Pot casts gloom over the Ashleigh House staff as well.

But with horses to feed, water and exercise, the only way is forward to a season's best total. That is their hope.