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Star turn Seebald on course for tilt at Arkle.

SEEBALD provided a star turn as the fourth of Tony McCoy's five winners as he thrust himself to favouritism for Cheltenham's Arkle Chase with his impressive 17-length defeat of Returning in the Cantor Sport Novices' Chase, writes Graham Dench.

The six-year-old was named by McCoy as one of his best chances (alongside Tarxien) on Saturday. As he completed a four-timer for Martin Pipe, Seebald was also taking his unbeaten run over fences to six.

Seebald is now 7-1 clear favourite for the Arkle with Coral, while Paddy Power make him 6-1 joint-favourite with Moscow Flyer. Both firms had him at 12-1 before the race.

Owners Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman, neither of whom could be present, had plenty of fun over hurdles with Seebald, who was good enough to finish a close third behind Geos in last year's Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. However, he must have exceeded even their wildest expectations since being switched to fences, and this was his second win at Grade 2 level.

Pipe said: "It was a good performance, giving weight away, and I'm delighted. What more can he do? It was his first time at the trip and he jumped very well, showing a good turn of foot at the finish.

"He'll be aimed at the Arkle now. I don't know if he'll be good enough, though. I'm not a handicapper, I'm a trainer."

ARKLE CHASE

Coral: 7 Seebald (from 12), 8 Moscow Flyer, 10 Blue Royal, Fondmort, 12 Grimes, 14 bar.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Dec 24, 2001
Words:247
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