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Track being watered at Cheltenham

Cheltenham ground staff began watering the track yesterday in an attempt to prevent conditions drying out ahead of the Festival that gets underway on Tuesday.

Earlier weather forecasts had prompted the Prestbury Park team, led by clerk of the course Simon Claisse, to report on Monday that watering was unlikely to be necessary before the four-day extravaganza began.

However, the amount of rain predicted to fall in the area over the next few days has been revised from between 12-15mm to a maximum of 5mm.

That led Claisse to initiate watering on the Old Course, which is used on the opening two days, with 4mm applied on ground that had officially been given as good to soft, good in places.

The decision is likely to be welcomed by many Irish trainers, who are due to send horses that appreciate a cut in the ground, and it will certainly enhance the prospect of the Colm Murphy-trained Quito De La Roque lining out in Wednesday's RSA Chase.

Murphy stated the dual Grade Two-winning novice would not travel if conditions came up quick, as the full six-day entries were revealed for day two.

The other Irish contenders among 16 left in the RSA are Bostons Angel, Mikael D'Haguenet, Quel Esprit, Jessies Dream and Magnanimity.

Murphy also has the reigning two-mile champion Big Zeb in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday. Just 11 horses stood their ground for the prestigious Grade One, with Sizing Europe, Golden Silver and Captain Cee Bee the other Irish entrants.

There were few surprises in the withdrawals for any of the seven races on Wednesday, a day that sees Irish-trained horses hold favouritism in five events.

Having trailed the former champion Master Minded in the market in recent months, Big Zeb yesterday joined Paul Nicholls' charge at the head of most lists and is outright favourite with some firms, Victor Chandler taking the least chance at 5/2.

Alfa Beat continues to be the punters' preference in the National Hunt Chase, while the Willie Mullins-trained So Young is now challenging Oscars Well at the head of affairs in the

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