Racing: Atone slammed

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ATONE, Ireland's leading contender for the Arkle Trophy, suffered a shock defeat at Punchestown yesterday, but will still be aimed at the Cheltenham prize next month.

The 2-7 shot was beaten two lengths by Doorslammer, but his trainer, Bunny Cox, shrugged off Festival doubts. 'I haven't done much with him since Leopardstown last month and the very tacky ground was no help either,' he said.

William Hill now make Atone 7-2 co-favourite for the Arkle with Baydon Star and Coonawara. This follows Saturday's defeats for Current Express and Native Mission in their clash at Nottingham, from which both returned injured after jumping blunders cost them their chances behind Country Lad.

Nicky Henderson, the trainer of Current Express, said yesterday that his charge had a bruised stifle. Native Mission was reported 'stiff and slightly lame' by the Fitzgerald stable, which has called in a back specialist to look at the horse.

Newcastle's attempts to rescue the marathon Eider Chase were not rewarded when today's meeting followed Saturday's in succumbing to the weather. Fontwell, where frost is forecast, plans an early morning inspection.