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Big guns stand their ground for Arkle Chase


The Irish Independent Arkle Chase, the second race on the opening day of the 2011 Cheltenham Festival, has attracted a maximum of 13high quality runners standing their ground at Wednesday's five-day declaration stage, writes Elliot Slater.


All the leading fancies remain in the Grade 1 two-mile event that promises to be a thriller with the long time market leading trio of Medermit, Ghizao and Finan's Rainbow all listed for duty. Alan King's Medermit is marginally preferred in the betting at present and is the clear 3/1 favourite following his win in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices Chase at Sandown last month where he defeated Captain Chris, who is set to re-oppose on Tuesday.


Both Paul Nicholls' Ghizao and Nicky Henderson's Finian's Rainbow have shown smart form so far over fences and can be backed in places at 4/1. Realt Dubh is the most prominent Irish contender in the ante-post list being offered in places at 9/1. Noel Meade's seven-year-old has won his last two starts in Grade 1 company in Ireland and is expected to give a very good account of himself. The other two likely runners for the Irish contingent are the classy Mikael d'Haguenet and Blazing Tempo, both trained by Willie Mullins.


Evan Williams could well run both William's Wishes and West With the Wind, whilst other potential starters include David Pipe's Dan Breen (who will wear blinkers for the first time), Jonjo O'Neill's Rock Noir, northern raider Stagecoach Pearl (trained by Sue Smith), and Nicky Henderson's apparent second-string Giorgio Quercus.


The going at Cheltenham has reportedly dried out over the last few days and is now officially 'Good to Soft, Good in places' a significant factor when considering your bets for the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2011 or any other race.


However, there is still plenty of time for potential rain showers to take the sting out of the ground and punters should keep a close eye on the weather forecast.

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