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Festival focus: spotlight on the Arkle - war of attrition set to contract in price due to rivals' unpredictability; Matt Williams with a daily guide to the best plays on the exchanges.

Byline: Matt Williams

WAR OF ATTRITION is two from two over fences this season and unless something huge happens in the Arkle ante-post market, Mouse Morris's six-year-old will go to post as favourite.

He was particularly impressive when slamming Healy's Pub at Naas last month, and his Festival credentials are strengthened when you consider

only Brave Inca finished in front of him in last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle. Because of the inconsistency surrounding most of his rivals, War Of Attrition's price can only contract in the next couple of weeks and, granted he stays healthy, he'll be shorter than the 5.2 available on Betfair.

On good ground, Contraband would have a realistic chance, and his double-figure exchange odds would start to look big on the day. The same comment applies to Foreman, who is sure to attract support with Tony McCoy in the saddle.

Watson Lake and Ned Kelly are interesting at their current prices, but question marks remain over both and trying to guess how the market will react to their chances is tricky to say the least.

I've heard lots of positives about the credentials of the Noel Chance-trained River City but, judging by his exchange price, all is not well with him. I could be wrong, but the fact he is 14-1 with the bookies, but available to back at 25 (nothing in the lay market when I was looking) on Betfair, is worrying. His would-be backers should hold fire for the time being.

Arkle Trophy Back Lay BFAIR BEST ODDS BFAIR War Of Attrition 5.3 4-1 5.5 Contraband 10.5 8-1 11 Watson Lake 9.8 8-1 10.5 Ned Kelly 10 10-1 11 Foreman 14.4 14-1 15 River City 25 14-1 Punters should be aware that the ante-post market is not the same as the day-of-the-race market
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Mar 1, 2005
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