Rupert heading for Argento showdown

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The tremendously progressive first season novice chaser Time For Rupert will certainly be put through his paces and given a stern Cheltenham Festival test if he lines up on Saturday at the Prestbury track for the Grade 2 Argento Chase, writes Elliot Slater. 

Paul Webber's seven-year-old, an excellent runner-up to Big Buck's in last season's Ladbrokes World Hurdle, has taken particularly well to the larger obstacles in recording two wins at Cheltenham over smart novice opposition. He is currently the hot favourite for the RSA Chase and there has also been significant interest in him for the Cheltenham Gold Cup ever since his handler gave him a speculative entry into the top class championship race, even if the Cheltenham racing betting suggests he's something of an outsider for it.

If he takes his chance in the Argento Chase Time For Rupert will certainly have to improve again to win, with likely opposition set to include the smart Tidal Bay, runner-up to Imperial Commander in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock last time out, last year's Argento Chase winner Taranis who like another possible contender Neptune Collonges is trained by Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson's very useful Punchestown's, Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Little Josh, as well as the 2009 Aintree Grand National winner and last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup third Mon Mome, who may make his seasonal reappearance for Venetia Williams. 

If Time For Rupert does win the race then Webber will certainly be placed in the happiest of dilemma's in trying to decide whether he should go for the 'penalty kick' of the RSA Chase, or to strike while the iron is hot and have a crack at Imperial Commander, Kauto Star, Long Run and Denman in the Gold Cup. If Time For Rupert is beaten, then his decision is more or less made for him and anyone thinking about placing Cheltenham 2011 bets should bear this in mind.

Bookmakers make Webber's pride and joy the ante-post 7/4 favourite for the race, Punchestown's is offered at 9/4, Tidal Bay 6/1, and it's 12/1 bar the three.

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