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Betting fever running high as Festival nears

With just less than two weeks to go Festival fever really is getting into top gear and, with Ladbrokes becoming the first high-street bookmaker to offer the 'non-runner no bet' concession, punters are sure to be queuing up for that bit of insurance as they take some ante-post prices.

Paddy Power have revealed that they will refund all losing bets in the Spinal Research Supreme Novices Hurdle if odds-on favourite Dunguib wins the race.

Last year's Champion Bumper winner at the Festival heads back to Cheltenham as one of the bankers of the meeting after two Grade One wins already over hurdles and Paddy Power feels that this is one of the hottest offers around.

"I didn't sleep a wink last night. I still can't believe that we are doing this money-back special. Anyone having a bet in the Supreme with any other bookmaker should consult their psychiatrist immediately!" he said.

Racing UK has also announced details of their special offer in relation to the Cheltenham Festival -- and possibly the subsequent 12 months after.

Racing UK have recently sponsored Ruby Walsh and all accounts opened between now and the beginning of the Cheltenham Festival will qualify for a total refund of their annual subscription if Ruby Walsh wins the Champion Chase, Gold Cup and World Hurdle.

Accounts opened between now and the beginning of the Cheltenham Festival on March 16 will qualify for the potential refund should Master Minded, Kauto Star and Big Buck's win.

"It looks a good offer to me. All three are reigning champions and have great chances as their odds indicate. I sat on all three last weekend and schooled each one. All were A1, exactly where I'd want them to be at this stage and I couldn't be happier with them," Walsh said.

Racing UK offered a similar promotion ahead of the 2007 Derby if Frankie Dettori won the Derby and he duly landed the Epsom showpiece on Authorized with almost 1,500 taking out annual subscriptions in the lead up to the race.

Meanwhile, Tony McCoy has picked up a very notable spare ride aboard the Tom Cooper-trained Forpadydeplasterer in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and was reported to be in fine fettle following his excursion after racing at Leopardstown on Sunday where he schooled around under Barry Geraghty.

With Geraghty due to ride either the Nicky Henderson-trained Petit Robin or Colm Murphy's Big Zeb, Tony McCoy will again partner last year's Arkle winner, renewing the association from the Tingle Creek when he followed home Twist Magic.

"Barry has told me he won't be riding him so we've booked Tony McCoy," revealed the trainer yesterday.

"I was delighted with how he jumped yesterday, he put in some mighty leaps so he must be feeling well in himself. Also he won't have been mad about that ground as everybody knows and by the looks of it, it should be a lot better ground at Cheltenham."

With Geraghty yet to lay claims to his Champion Chase mount, Murphy is still awaiting the Meath man's decision before finalising any plans for Big Zeb.

"I was talking to Barry on Saturday and he just needs to talk to Mr Henderson and his owners," said the Wexford-based former Champion Hurdle winning trainer.

Murphy's other live contender bidding to follow the trainer's successful voyage with Brave Inca is classy mare Voler La Vedette who is set to take on reigning champion Quevega in the David Nicholson Mare's Hurdle.

With his association with Henderson and a good number of Irish trainers, Geraghty is yet again set to have an enviable book of Festival rides and he is deemed "very likely" to again be aboard Punjabi, who he won last year's Champion Hurdle on.

"AP will ride whatever Barry doesn't in the Champion. I think Barry will stick with Punjabi through loyalty but there is nothing set in stone," Henderson said.