Thursday, February 16, 2012

Binocular to take the high road for Cheltenham prep race

The 2010 Stan James Champion Hurdle winner Binocular looks set to make the long journey north to Scotland for the Victor Chandler Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso on February 15 as the cold weather forces his trainer Nicky Henderson to look far and wide in search of opportunities to give his various Cheltenham Festival candidates a final outing before the showcase meeting that begins on March 13, writes Elliot Slater.

Binocular had been expected to have his final outing before attempting to regain his hurdling crown in his traditional warm-up race at Sandown in early February, where the Contenders Hurdle has proved a happy hunting ground for the gelded son of Enrique who has landed the contest for the previous two seasons. The wintry weather scuppered that fixture though, and with stable companion Grandouet set to take his chance at Wincanton in the Kingwell Hurdle, Binocular will very likely head up to Kelso in a race that is often used as a key Champion Hurdle trial. Those looking at a Victor Chandler review need to bear this in mind.

Henderson has had runners in the race before and famously came unstuck when his Zaynar, (who went on to finish third to Binocular at Cheltenham three weeks later), was sensationally beaten at odd of 1/14 by Nicky Richards' Quwetwo. The Seven Barrows handler will be hoping that lightening doesn't strike twice and reports Binocular to be in good shape as he prepares the JP McManus-owned eight-year-old to take on the awesome Hurricane Fly in what is building up to be a fine renewal of the two-mile hurdling championship event. Fans of Bwin should pay close attention.

Bookmakers rate Binocular a top priced 10/1 chance to repeat his 2010 Cheltenham success where he got the better of Khyber Kim in a thrilling finish, but Hurricane Fly continues to dominate the ante-post market for the race following his imperious win in Ireland recently and is no bigger than 5/6 to retain his title.

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