Peddlers Cross is now the 5/2 favourite to win the Jewson Novices’ Chase as trainer Donald McCain has backed out of a rematch with Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham.
The Arkle was one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the whole four-day Festival, with Sprinter Sacre, Peddlers Cross and Al Ferof expected to produce a tense finale.
However, McCain has changed course, with Peddlers Cross instead targeting the 2m4f novice event, rather than the 2m chase that requires greater speed.
The decision almost mirrors that of two years ago, where Peddlers Cross abandoned the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over 2m at the Cheltenham Festival in favour of the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle, which he duly won.
McCain has indicated that the decision was based on the horse failing to prepare properly for the Arkle because of a setback in December.
Peddlers Cross was beaten by 16 lengths by Sprinter Sacre at Kempton on that occasion and it was noted that the horse did not come out of the race as expected.
It was predicted that Peddlers Cross would present a far sterner challenge at Cheltenham, but connections believe that the slower pace of the Jewson will be better suited to the horse after his lack of adequate schooling over fences at home.
But the decision is still slightly strange given that the Jewson is only considered a Grade Two contest, while there is a relatively large difference in available prize money between the two races.
If the Arkle was out of the equation, some punters will also feel that the better move would have been to revert the horse to hurdles to try to improve on his second in the Champion Hurdle last season behind Hurricane Fly.
The fallout in the Arkle odds is that Sprinter Sacre has been cut to 8/11 for victory, with Al Ferof being cut to 11/4.
Ladbrokes can at least offer punters some consolation after Peddlers Cross’ decision, as they will be refunding all bets on the horse for the Arkle as a result of their non runner money back policy