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Which short-priced favourite is most vulnerable?

Bookmakers took a battering at last year's Cheltenham Festival, with a succession of well-backed winners sending punters home happy, and the layers' fortunes this time around could depend on how the six 'bankers' currently trading at shorter than 2-1 fare.

In a bid to ensure this year's festival is another 2016, we've ranked the hot favourites in order of shaky to certs.

Pros: Has dominated the hunter chase scene for the last two years, winning this contest before completing the festival treble at Aintree and Punchestown. Now a 12-year-old but looked as good as ever when posting a highly-encouraging second to Foxrock on recent reappearance at Leopardstown.

Cons: Only scrambled home in last season's race and this year's renewal could be stronger with Wonderful Charm, a high-class Grade 2-winning chaser at his peak, not needing to come off the bridle to win on both starts in hunter chases. Prolific winner Ask The Weatherman brings a big reputation from the pointing sphere and impressed when slamming a formerly smart chaser at Wincanton recently.

Conclusion: The horse to beat but doesn't make much appeal at such a short price against a couple of strong contenders, in what is likely to be a chaotic 20-plus-runner cavalry charge.

Pros: Consistent, versatile mare who has been beaten just once in 13 starts since joining Willie Mullins. Was an impressive winner of this race last year and the 2m4f trip appeals as her optimum.

Cons: Often compared to illustrious stablemate Annie Power but does not boast a piece of form to suggest she is nearly as good as last season's Champion Hurdle winner. Her one defeat was inflicted by likely rival Apple's Jade, and she was well below her best at Doncaster last time when narrowly winning at 1-5.

Conclusion: Arguably should have beaten Apple's Jade at Fairyhouse when set plenty to do, and meets that rival on 4lb better terms. But there's not a great deal between the pair in terms of ability and her lacklustre effort last time – on the back of a hard race over a stamina-sapping three miles – has to be a concern.

Pros: Successful on all eight starts since joining Harry Fry and hasn't had to pull out all the stops to register a hat-trick of Graded-race successes this season. Twice a winner over course and distance and holds rock-solid claims.

Cons: Not as far clear on ratings as you may expect for a horse trading so close to evens, so may not be able to get away with performing much below his best if other rivals bring their A-game.

Conclusion: By far the most likely winner but not a great deal of juice in his price, and both Shaneshill and 2015 winner Cole Harden appeal as legitimate rivals, particularly if the ground is good.


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