Racing / Cheltenham Festival: Wise to wait for The Committee: Richard Edmondson sifts through the runners for some bets that could make the bookies call upon their reserves

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The Independent Online
THIS IS the week when bookmakers stock up like seals diving through a silvery shoal.

As one Cheltenham hotel owner said yesterday: 'We get a lot of bookies in here and at the start of the Festival they put a bag full of money in the safe in case they run short. At the end of the week it's always still there.'

The reason is the devilishly difficult racing and the foolish few who top up the satchels by wagering on novelty bets.

William Hill produced the first in this genre yesterday when they offered odds of 20-1 about Martin Pipe capturing both the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup.

Investors in this bet will largely know their fate within the space of 40 minutes today. First, the champion trainer saddles two horses in the Champion Hurdle and then Country Member (4.05) will provide evidence about the Wellington stable's Gold Cup chances.

Andy Turnell's gelding beat the Pipe-trained Rushing Wild at Sandown last month when receiving sack-loads of weight and, if he follows up, Peter Scudamore will both reject Pipe's Chatam in favour of Rushing Wild and rub his hands at the prospect of a first- ever Gold Cup victory.

Country Member, though, represents dubious value, a remark which can also be appended to Sybillin (2.50) in the Arkle Chase. Jimmy FitzGerald's runner is undoubtedly a quality performer - he is considered better than the yard's previous winner of this race, Danish Flight - but the price is just too tight.

Funds should therefore be reserved for a race which has an element of deja vu, the Fulke Walwyn / Kim Muir Handicap Chase. The event was won last year by Marcus Armytage, who again has a well fancied mount in Merry Master, while the previous victor was Omerta, like Roc De Prince today, an Irish import having his first run for Pipe.

This should go, however, to an Irish horse still at home, The Committee (4.40), who has faced some cruel assignments this term.

While Sukaab (5.15) is no more than a tentative choice to cap the day, the opener offers a bet against two unrealistically priced Irish entries. Forget Boro Eight and Montelado and go for Frickley (next best 2.15).

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