Racing: Dunwoody finds Festival favour

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RICHARD DUNWOODY was yesterday made a short-priced favourite to be the most successful rider at next week's National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham.

The current leader for this season's jockey's title is 11-10 with bookmakers William Hill. Last year's champion rider, Peter Scudamore, was put in the betting at 5-2 second favourite.

Dunwoody's mounts during the three-day meeting, which starts on Tuesday, include Flown in the Champion Hurdle, Wonder Man in the Arkle Trophy, and Waterloo Boy in the Champion Chase.

Mark Dwyer, whose strong hand includes Coulton (Champion Hurdle), Sybillin (Arkle), and Jodami in the Gold Cup, is next in Hills' list at 100-30. The firm then bet: 8-1 Adrian Maguire - who rode three winners at Bangor yesterday - followed by 16-1 for Carl Llewellyn, and 20-1 and upwards for the rest.

Flown's prospects of giving Dunwoody his second Champion Hurdle win are increasing by the day as dry weather keeps the going fast at Cheltenham.

The six-year-old may well be favourite when the field lines up on Tuesday, but a rival whose odds also look certain to shorten is Kribensis, who carried Dunwoody to his first victory in 1990. The jockey will have mixed feelings over news that the grey completed a good workout yesterday.

Kribensis, who gave the first hint of a return to form when a close second to Valfinet in last month's Kingwell Hurdle, has spent the last few days in the Cotswolds with David Nicholson. The change of scenery away from Michael Stoute's Newmarket yard has helped him regain much of his former sparkle.

Ridden by Declan Murphy yesterday, Kribensis came through a seven-furlong gallop in good shape. 'He felt very well and is in good form. He appears to have a bit of buzz about him,' Murphy reported. 'He's got a tremendous chance. The ground is sure to help him if it remains fast.'

But trainers continuing to be concerned over the going include Nigel Twiston-Davies. He has half-a-dozen challengers lined up for the meeting, but may let only half that number run if the ground is too firm.

'It won't bother Young Hustler (Sun Alliance Chase) or Tipping Tim (Gold Cup) but Dakyns Boy (Sun Alliance Chase) would like it softer. Sweet Duke (Stayers' Hurdle), Gaelstrom (Sun Alliance Hurdle) and Texan Baby (Festival Bumper) wouldn't want it firm and probably wouldn't run if it was,' the trainer said yesterday.