Danoli drifts but rain predicted to soften the Cheltenham turf

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The Independent Online
The gulf between Alderbrook and Danoli in the betting for the Champion Hurdle widened yesterday as the threat of fast ground gripped ante-post backers. Punters started to show anxiety that the weather forecast for Cheltenham predicts little substantial rain before Tuesday when the meeting opens. The ground is currently described as good.

As a result, while Alderbrook remained a solid odds-on favourite with the major bookmakers, confidence in Danoli has ebbed, with Ladbrokes pushing out the Irish challenger, who relishes the test of stamina that soft ground brings, to 9-2 from 4-1.

Collier Bay, a mud-lover, has also had his odds lengthened to 12-1 with Ladbrokes and the Tote while support poured in for Hotel Minella, the horse he beat a head to land the Irish Champion Hurdle. Hotel Minella, for whom Charlie Swan was prepared to desert Danoli and who is favoured by less testing ground, is now 5-1 joint second favourite with Hills and the Tote, cut from 7-1.

But Cheltenham's clerk of the course, Philip Arkwright, believes the sceptics have little to fear with the Met men expecting up to half an inch of rain to fall on Champion Hurdle day.

"We are expecting wintery showers of sleet and snow tonight or tomorrow but the moisture content is unlikely to be very significant. It will dry up on Saturday, Sunday and Monday but then the pressure will drop and we should have fairly significant rain on Tuesday and Wednesday," he said.

"The forecast should allay any fears that the ground may be fast. We are talking about significant rainfall and when I suggested as much as half an inch of rain a day my forecaster didn't dispute it. Trainers must be highly encouraged by that."

If accurate, the forecast will do little to help Jamie Osborne select his Champion Hurdle mount between Collier Bay and Mysilv, two of 17 five- day acceptors for the big race yesterday. The jockey will discuss his choice with Mysilv's trainer, Charlie Egerton, and Collier Bay's handler, Jim Old, before the weekend but the prospect of Graham Bradley teaming up with Collier Bay is increasing by the day.

"I will be speaking to Mr Egerton and Mr Old in the next 24 hours but with the way the weather is going it looks like I'll be on Mysilv," he said. A jockey announcement is also expected for Squire Silk, whose regular rider Paul Carberry is suspended.

Acceptors: Absalom's Lady (Trained: D Elsworth); Alderbrook (K Bailey); Boro Eight (Miss V Williams); Chief Minister (T Dyer); Collier Bay (J Old); Danoli (T Foley); Hotel Minella (A P O'Brien); Kissair (M Pipe); Land Afar (P Webber); Mack The Knife (M Pipe); Muse (D Elsworth); Mysilv (C Egerton); Pridwell (M Pipe); Right Win (R Hannon); Romancer (N Twiston-Davies); Squire Silk (A Turnell); Staunch Friend (M Tompkins).