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Hope for Halo but Punjabi doubtful

Both Celestial Halo and Punjabi were supplementary entries at yesterday's final forfeit stage for the Toshiba Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday for which Solwhit is the current ante post favourite.

A total of 12 now stand a chance of lining up for the Grade 1 contest. However, it is expected that the Nicky Henderson-trained Punjabi will go to Haydock on Saturday instead with the Leopardstown entry purely speculative in case the weather yet again plays havoc with last season's Cheltenham Champion Hurdler.

Celestial Halo, however, is more likely to make the trip over and take on Charles Byrnes' Solwhit who is looking for a fifth Grade 1 win in six outings for the Top Of The Hill Syndicate.

The six-year-old is a course and distance winner from Christmas when he landed the December Festival Hurdle beating Sublimity, whose participation on Sunday could be cast in some doubt if rain leaves the going at the Foxrock venue on the heavy side according to trainer Robbie Hennessy.

Noel Meade will give Donnas Palm a chance to lay a claim for Champion Hurdle inclusion as he steps up to the top grade after three wins on the bounce over hurdles, while Won In The Dark, Al Eile, Galway Hurdle winner Bahrain Storm, Royal And Regal and Torphichen complete the possible line up.

Also on Sunday is the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase in which Sizing Europe was unsurprisingly a defector from the race although last weekend's winning stablemate An Cathair Mor is one of eight remaining in the Grade 1 2m1f contest.


Zaarito represents Colm Murphy and would be hoping to follow up his Leopardstown win at the Christmas Festival and give Murphy a boost after he was forced to withdraw Voler La Vedette from Sunday's other Grade 1 after she was found to have pulled a muscle on Monday morning.

The sole British entry in the Arkle is that of Paul Nicholls' Take The Breeze who has racked up three in a row across the water, while Willie Mullins is represented by Sports Line and Lilywhitedancer and Liam Burke's Major Finnegan is another notable entry. Bobs Pride and Fosters Cross complete the octet.

Solwhit is an 10/11 chance with William Hill for Sunday's feature with Celestial Halo next best at 9/4, while Punjabi's price of 7/2 would be likely to quickly shorten if there was to be a change of heart as regards to his route for the weekend and shorten much quicker with Ladbrokes who are 13/2 about the Nicky Henderson horse.

Hills have seen support for Solwhit from 4/5, while Donnas Palm is now 11/2 from 7/1, while Sublimty is gone the other way from 11/2 out to 7/1 with fears over the ground for him.

Ladbrokes make Take The Breeze favourite for the Arkle with Paul Nicholls' charge the 13/8 favourite from 11/4 chance Zaarito, while Sports Line is 7/2 for Willie Mullins.

Meanwhile, Boylesports make Carthalawn their 7/1 favourite for the rescheduled MCR Hurdle on Saturday after leading fancy Farringdon was taken out by trainer Prunella Dobbs.

The nine-year-old will be hoping to kick start the weekend for Charles Byrnes and is in off 10st 11lbs with the Martin Brassil-trained Moville next in the betting at 10/1 along with Steviemac and Thousand Stars.

Tomorrow's feature at Gowran Park, the Thyestes Chase is set to be a massive betting heat in which the Willie Mullins trained Beroni is likely to go off favourite following this morning's declarations.

The Troytown winner was ultra impressive that day at Navan and had the ideal prep run for tomorrow over hurdles at Punchestown on New Years Eve and was a general 5/1 in the ante post book .

Thyestes Chase - Tomorrow

Ladbrokes Bet: 5 Beroni, 13/2 Footy Facts, 7 Siegemaster, 7 Lochan Lacha, 8 Hold The Pin, 12 Dooneys Gate, 12 Hangover, 12 Preists Leap, 14 Arbor Supreme, 14 Equus Maximus, 14 One Cool Cookie, 14 Oscar Looby, 14 Whinstone Boy, 16 Bella Mana Mou, 16 Hurricane Carter, 16 Jayo, 16 Paddy Pub, 16 Good Fella 20/1 bar.

MCR Hurdle - Saturday

Boylesports Bet: 7/1 Carthalawn, 10/1 Moville, 10/1 Steviemac, 10/1 Thousand Stars, 12/1 Cockleshell Road, 12/1 Fen Game, 12/1 Tawaagg, 12/1 Spring the Que, 14/1 Native Clan, 14/1 Uncle Tom Cobley, 16/1 Arch Rebel, 16/1 Perce Rock, 16/1 Smoking Aces, 16/1 Asigh Pearl, 20/1 bar.

Irish Champion Hurdle - Sunday

William Hill Bet: 10/11 Solwhit, 9/4 Celestial Halo, 7/2 Punjabi (Doubtful), 11/2 Sublimity, 6/1 Donnas Palm, 20/1 Torphichen, 33/1 Al Eile, Muirhead (Doubtful), Won In The Dark, 40/1 De Valira (Doubtful), 66/1 Bahrain Storm, 100/1 Royal And Regal.

Irish Arkle - Sunday

Ladbrokes Bet: 13/8 Take The Breeze, 11/4 Zaarito, 7/2 Sportsline, 8 Major Finnegan, 12 Fosters Cross, 12 Lilywhitedancer, 14 An Cathair Mor, 16 Bobs Pride.