Cheltenham Festival 2011 

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Aerial Team Resist Cheltenham Festival Temptation

Exciting French import Aerial has been scratched from both the Centenary Novices Chase on Tuesday's opening day of the Cheltenham Festival and is also absent from the list of runners for the Byrne Group Festival Plate next Thursday, writes Elliot Slater.

Paul Nicholls

Paul Nicholls

The Paul Nicholls-trained five-year-old had attracted support for both races having impressed on his British debut at Wincanton in mid-February when winning the Bathwick Tyres Taunton Handicap Chase under champion jockey Tony McCoy by nine-lengths from Tamadot. Justifying 100/30 favouritism, the gelded son of Turgeon had gone into plenty of notebooks having jumped well throughout and looked to be a class apart from his rivals.

No reason has been given for the removal of Aerial from the two races, but Nicholls also took the opportunity on Tuesday to remove Taranis, Fistral Beach and Take The Breeze from the Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase, the third race on the opening day of the showpiece fixture. Those who were considering backing these horses may want to focus on the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting instead.

Aerial had been quoted as short as 10/1 for the 'Centenary Chase' whilst odds of up to 16/1 had been available about his chance in the Festival Plate. The horse was acquired by owners Tony Hayward and Barry Fulton having already had a busy career in his native France where he raced some 15 times before the end of his four-year-old season. Although a winner only once on the other side of The Channel, he had been placed eight times in decent company and had achieved his sole success in a conditions at Auteuil in June of last year on very soft ground.

Alan King's Bensalem remains the 10/1 ante-post favourite for the Festival Plate and Ferdy Murphy's Divers is the 10/1 ante-post favourite for the Centenary Novices Chase.

Meanwhile, the Grand National betting prices have continued to fluctuate as punters try and find a potential winner of the world's greatest steeplechase.

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