Last year’s Champion Hurdle runner-up Peddlers Cross was one of the few surprise entries at the initial stage for the Grade 1 Queen Mother Champion Chase at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival on March 14, Donald McCain’s smart performer having been assumed to be a contender for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy on the previous day of the showcase fixture, writes Elliot Slater.

McCain insists that entry is simply “precautionary” but that hasn’t stopped bookmakers introducing the son of Oscar at 14/1 in the Betfair Champion chase betting, last year’s winner Sizing Europe (5/2), and Big Zeb (5/1), holder of the crown the previous season, continuing to dominate betting on the race.

Peddlers Cross remains prominent in the list for the Arkle Trophy though and is a solid 11/2 second favourite for the two-mile novice chasing title behind Nicky Henderson’s Sprinter Scare (5/2), the horse who comprehensively outpointed McCain’s charge when slamming him by 16-lengths in the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices Chase at Kempton’s Christmas fixture. McCain believes that racing right-handed was all against his horse who came into the race unbeaten in his two previous starts over fences, (both admittedly at a much lower level at Bangor), but in which he had jumped impressively, something that was lacking from the start in what was almost certainly a below-par performance from the seven-year-old at the Sunbury track.

It would be a major surprise if Peddlers Cross was indeed asked to take on the established chasing stars in the ‘Queen Mother’ after just three runs over fences and having been put in his place in novice company on his most recent start, and it appears far more likely that the Arkle Chase will remain the chosen objective of the horse whose unbeaten record over hurdles only fell in last season’s Champion Hurdle where he ran such a great race to be a brave second to the outstanding Hurricane Fly.