Imperial Call on bookmakers' easy-to-back list

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The Independent Online
Events in Ireland in recent days have caused rumblings in the ante-post markets for the Cheltenham championships. Imperial Call, last year's Gold Cup winner who bruised his shoulder when falling during exercise on Wednesday, has been eased by Coral to 9-2 favourite, from 4-1, for this season's race.

"There does not appear to be any confidence behind the horse," Rob Hartnett, the firm's representative, reported. "If the rumours from Ireland are true then he has lost his sparkle."

Master Tribe, winner of Saturday's Ladbroke Hurdle, is quoted by that race's sponsor at 50-1 for the Champion Hurdle, with the third, Penny A Day, on 33-1. "If they are going to enter Master Tribe for the Champion we might as well have a go, because at level weights things would have been a lot different on Saturday," Mary Reveley, Penny A Day's trainer, said.

Talk of a split between Master Tribe's trainer, Jenny Pitman, and her stable jockey, Warren Marston, have been dismissed by the rider's agent, Chris Broad.

Marston was replaced by Norman Williamson on Master Tribe, and Mark Pitman, the assistant trainer, said: "I'm very sorry for Warren, but the owners wanted someone with experience of the course, and it has paid off."