Horse Racing: Big guns set for Arkle

There were no surprise absentees following the latest forfeit stage for Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy at next month's Cheltenham Festival.

Ghizao, Medermit and Finian's Rainbow are currently battling it out at the head of the betting for the Grade One contest and all remain possible runners.

As well as Finian's Rainbow, Nicky Henderson also has Bellvano and Giorgio Quercus in the reckoning, while Captain Chris is a major contender for Philip Hobbs.

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Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins will call on Blazing Tempo and Mikael D'Haguenet, while Irish Arkle hero Realt Dubh could represent Noel Meade.

Mamlook, Quel Esprit, Surfing and the fatally injured Kilmurry are among those who have been scratched, leaving 23 remaining entries.

Ante-post favourite Time For Rupert features among 32 possibles for the RSA Chase.

Major rivals Aiteen Thirtythree, Jessies Dream and Wymott are still in the field, while Mikael D'Haguenet also has an entry in this event.

A total of 19 horses have been scratched, including Hell's Bay, Othermix, Reve De Sivola and Berties Dream.

The other major novice race to be run over fences at Cheltenham this season is the newly formed Jewson Novices' Chase over the intermediate distance of two and a half miles.

Among the 40 possibles are the likes of Noble Prince, Captain Chris, Hell's Bay and Wishfull Thinking.

The most notable absentees are Master Of The Hall, The Minack and Thegreatjohnbrowne.

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• Today's meeting at Ayr must pass a 7am precautionary inspection but track officials are confident that the fixture will go ahead. The going was soft yesterday, but it was expected to rain into the early hours of the morning.

Clerk of the course Emma Marley said: "We are currently soft and perfectly raceable. We've seen varying forecasts and just in case some of the ones we've seen that predict quite a lot of rain are right, we'll inspect at 7am.

"There's a heavy band of rain forecast in the early hours but Thursday is due to be fine and bright. I'm confident of racing but the ground will be testing."

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