Cee Bee and Europe head Arkle betting
The leading Irish entries Captain Cee Bee and Sizing Europe as well as a strong entry from Nicky Henderson's yard continue to dominate ante-post markets on the main novice events over fences at Cheltenham.
Classy entries for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy (47) and the RSA Chase (71) plus the National Hunt Chase (80) were revealed yesterday and include a host of proven festival performers.
Victorious from Binocular in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle two years ago, the Edward Harty-trained Captain Cee Bee -- in the JP McManus colours -- and Sizing Europe are 4/1 and 5/1 respectively for the Arkle Trophy with Paddy Power.
Third in the opening Supreme Novices event to Go Native last year, Somersby is next best with that firm at 7/1 for the Irish Independent promotion in which Forpadydeplasterer defeated Kalahari King that afternoon.
An impressive victor on Tingle Creek Chase day at Sandown early last month, Henrietta Knight's Somersby is scheduled to be reunited with Tony McCoy for his prep event for the Cotswolds at Hereford on Sunday.
Tataniano (8/1), which runs at Newbury today and would appear to be the pick of a Paul Nicholls quintet after scoring well over the course and distance last November, will attempt to emulate Nicholls' previous winners Flagship Uberalles and Azertyuiop.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins is responsible for half of the 16 Irish entries, among which last year's hurdles winner here Mikael D'Haguenet at 10/1 and Sunday's Leopardstown second Sports Line (12/1) stand out.
Mad Max and Riverside Theatre should be in with decent Arkle Trophy chances also for Nicky Henderson ,whose Punchestowns (7/2) and French import Long Run (6/1) dominate Paddy Power's betting for the RSA Chase.
Saturday's smooth Haydock Park winner Diamond Harry at 7/1 bolsters a formidable home defence of the three-mile event won by Cooldine 12 months ago for Willie Mullins, whose Mikael D'Haguenet (9/1) is next best.
Boosting the Irish challenge are last year's Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle hero Weapons Amnesty (10/1), which lost out by the minimum margin to Pandorama (12/1) in the Knight Frank Chase at Leopardstown a month ago.
The Michael O'Leary-owned Weapons Amnesty has proved more popular, particularly with followers of the in-form Charles Byrnes stable in Ballingarry, Co Limerick, than Noel Meade's Pandorama in recent weeks.
Edward O'Grady's versatile Catch Me and 2008 Weatherbys Champion Bumper winner Cousin Vinny, which has yet to open his account over the larger obstacles for the Mullins yard, also figure among the RSA Chase's 26 Irish entries.
The four-mile National Hunt Amateur Chase, which is the oldest race at the festival, is invariably heavily subscribed, with locally-based Jonjo O'Neill -- through the likes of Synchronised and Theatrical Moment -- hoping to take the prize for a sixth time.