Medermit faces fight to the finish in tight Arkle battle
TUESDAY: The Arkle All three of the main protagonists in the Arkle Chase have been matched at 33/1 or bigger, but with just over a point separating them now, it's tight at the top.
The market suggests Medermit 4.2 (3/1), Ghizao 5.2 (4/1), and Finian's Rainbow 5.4 (9/2) will be fighting out the finish, while Irish interests will focus on the Noel Meade-trained Realt Dubh which is currently a 9/1 chance.
Medermit, which finished seventh in last year's Champion Hurdle, has attracted significant support throughout the year and will go off favourite to give Choc Thornton another victory in a race he last won in 2006.
Paul Nicholls has always thought highly of Ghizao and earmarked this event for the seven-year-old since winning over course and distance in November. Doubts have been expressed about the jumping ability of the Barry Geraghty-ridden Finian's Rainbow and layers have been opposing him in recent days.
A quality renewal of the feature event on day one and last year's winner, Binocular, will really need to improve on his previous displays this campaign if he is to retain his crown. Remarkably, considering the strength of this year's opposition, he has not traded above 6.6 (11/2) and is currently just 4.3 to give owner JP McManus a fifth win in the race.
He will face stiff competition in the shape of multi-Grade One winner, Hurricane Fly (5/1) and both of last year's Grade One-winning novice hurdlers, Peddlers Cross 7.4 (13/2) and Menorah 6.0 (5/1). Meanwhile, 2010 Irish nap Dunguib, which has been backed at 33/1, has entered some calculations following an impressive win in Gowran Park and can be backed at 14.5 (13/1).
Since finishing second to Big Buck's in last year's World Hurdle, a chasing career has beckoned for the Paul Webber-trained Time For Rupert and following two course victories in November and December, he has been a solid 4.0 (3/1) favourite for the RSA Chase, with very few Betfair customers willing to oppose him above that price.
Leading Irish hope Jessies Dream has been backed at a high of 44.0 and is currently at 10/1, although the Gordon Elliott runner has yet to convince he is as effective going left-handed.
AiteenThirtyThree has been supported from an ante-post high of 200 (199/1) all the way down to his current price of 9.6 (17/2) while the somewhat disappointing Mikael D'Haguenet, backed at a high of 65 (64/1), is now a 16/1 chance.
Defending Champion Big Zeb has been well supported to claim his second Queen Mother Champion Chase. Matched at a high of 8/1, in recent days he has become joint favourite with Master Minded at 4.1 (3/1). The Paul Nicholls-trained horse was an even-money chance at this stage last year and although he comes here off the back of three consecutive wins, he has been particularly weak on the exchange in recent weeks.
By contrast, a Nicholls runner that is attracting significant support is Woolcombe Folly. The eight-year-old has improved immeasurably throughout this campaign and having been backed at a high of 460 (459/1), he is now just a 9.4 (17/2) shot.
Big Buck's will face the most significant challenge yet in his quest to make it a hat-trick of wins in this contest and exchange customers are betting against him achieving the feat. Backed at a low of 1.72 (8/11), the market has spoken in recent weeks and he is now 5/4 to complete the unique sequence.
Grands Crus has improved with every run this season and has been supported from a high of 27 (26/1) to a current price of 3.7 (11/4), while the Willie Mullins duo Mourad and Fiveforthree have both been backed at over 151 (150/1) and at current odds of 13.0 and 16.0 respectively, they would be popular winners with the value hunters.
Since doubts have arisen over the participation of some leading contenders, the Paul Nicholls-trained Poquelin's odds have shortened dramatically and he is now just 4.0 (3/1) to pocket Michael O'Leary's prize money.
Tranquil Sea, trained by the most successful Irish trainer at the Festival, Edward O'Grady, had drifted in the market before his withdrawal yesterday.
The well-fancied Kalahari King's price has been going the other way and he is now 6.5 (11/2) from 10.0 (9/1).
Grand Annual Chase
Nicky Henderson once again holds the key to this race and his eight-year-old, Tanks For That, has been supported from a high of 17 (16/1) into a current price of 7/1.
I'msingingtheblues is another significant mover in the ante-post betting, having been backed from 30.0 into 11.0, while the Alan King-trained Oh Crick has also been backed at 24 (23/1).
While known for his ability to run well fresh, especially at Cheltenham, Imperial Commander will have to be in top form to repel this year's challengers and retain his Gold Cup crown. Not seen since winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock, the Paddy Brennan-ridden 10-year-old is currently 4.5 (7/2) in what looks a very open contest.
Both Kauto Star and Denman have been relatively friendless in the market and ante-post highs of 12.5 and 20.0 respectively show them as fading lights.
The big market springer has been Irish Hennessy winner Kempes. Matched at a high of 500 (for €3) he has been strongly supported in recent weeks and is now just 13.5 (12/1) for the Blue Riband event.
Another outsider to have been backed at big ante-post odds is Tidal Bay. Matched at the maximum Betfair price of 1000 (€22 traded), he is currently 22.0 (21/1) to score on Friday. Known to be a bit quirky, often racing without any interest before springing to life late in his races, in-running backers on Betfair will be watching his progress on the day with interest.
Prices correct as at 3.30 on March 11. For latest Betfair odds, see www.betfair.com or Mobile App on www.betfair.com/mobile
Barry Orr is the PR & Horse Racing Manager for Betfair Ireland
Sunday Indo Sport