Thursday, December 22, 2011

Binocular to bid to retain Christmas Hurdle title

Although he was made favourite for the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on his seasonal reappearance last month, it didn’t come as the greatest surprise to see former champion hurdler Binocular go down to defeat at the hands of Overturn, Nicky Henderson’s charge having also failed to win first-time out on the previous two seasons, writes Elliot Slater.

Last term, after finishing third to Peddlers Cross in the ‘Fighting Fifth’, Binocular went on to land a three-and-three-quarter-length success over old rival Overturn in the rescheduled Christmas Hurdle in mid-January before following up in a conditions race at Sandown the following month. A setback ruled him out of defending his Cheltenham crown and he wasn’t seen again until Aintree in April when patently failing to stay on his first attempt at two and a half miles in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle won by Oscar Whisky. Those following the Cheltenham festival odds online need to remember this.

This term it was to be expected that the gelded son of Enrique would come on for his seasonal bow, and after travelling well for much of the contest under Tony McCoy the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old couldn’t quicken with the race fit Overturn and went down to a four-and-a-half-length defeat at the hands of Donald McCain’s tough as teak dual purpose performer.

Expectations are high in the Henderson camp that they will reverse form with Overturn and also prove good enough to see off the up-and-coming Rock On Ruby, (amongst others), in a race that will have some impact on the ante-post market for the Champion Hurdle in 11 weeks time. Bookmakers currently rate Binocular a top price 16/1 shot to regain his title.

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