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|Bullish McCain still sweet on Peddlers Cross|
Cheshire-based Donald McCain refuses to be overawed by the presence of big-race favourite Sprinter Sacre in the Grade 1 Racing Post Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on March 13, believing that his hugely talented Peddlers Cross is back to his best and will give Nicky Henderson's market leader plenty to think about on the big day in the race for the two-mile novice chasing crown, writes Elliot Slater.
Peddlers Cross surrendered his unbeaten record in last season's Champion Hurdle when giving his all, but eventually finding the outstanding Hurricane Fly just a length-and-a-quarter too strong for him and was probably a tired horse when letting the side down at Aintree a few weeks later. Living up to all the hype, the gelded son of Oscar made a bright start to his novice chasing career winning twice at his local track of Bangor, jumping well and looking as though he would prove hard to beat at Cheltenham Festival 2012.
Made an odds-on favourite to complete his hattrick in the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices Chase at Kempton Park in late-December, owner Tim Leslie's charge never appeared at ease on the right-handed circuit and was always at full stretch in trying to keep tabs on Nicky Henderson's Sprinter Sacre, who eventually ran away from him with embarrassing ease to score by an eased down 16-lengths and was immediately installed as the new ante-post favourite for the Arkle.
McCain found that Peddlers Cross had sustained some minor back injuries during the course of the Kempton contest and has put the seven-year-old through a series of treatments which appear to have remedied the problem. Reportedly working once again in tremendous fashion, bookmakers have been trimming the odds of Peddlers Cross from a post-Kempton high of 11/2, to a current mark of just 7/2. He remains second-favourite behind the 5/4 market leader Sprinter Scare who once again hacked up against good opposition at Newbury recently.
Meanwhile, the Cheltenham Gold Cup Betting Odds suggest that the race is set to be as exciting as ever with punters relishing an epic clash.