Hurdlers take centre stage on day one
ESPN - 2010-03-15
The highlight of the opening day is the Champion Hurdle which is so often a difficult puzzle to solve and this year's renewal has not been helped by a host of problems for the leading fancies. Binocular started the season as favourite for the race, but was ruled out of the race in February by trainer Nicky Henderson after he was found to have a problem. However, he responded well to a course of treatment and after coming through a gallop with flying colours will head to post with a live chance.
Henderson has two other strings to his bow, Triumph Hurdle winner Zaynar and defending champion Punjabi, while Go Native, winner of last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle, is hunting a £1 million bonus after winning the first two legs of the WBX Hurdling Triple Crown. Noel Meade's charge is a strong traveller and could evoke memories of Harchibald if Paul Carberry can get him into a good rhythm, but there is the feeling that he may be found wanting up the hill.
Celestial Halo is the forgotten horse of the race, having finished second 12 months ago, and Paul Nicholls is sure to have his charge at concert pitch as he bids to win a race that has so far eluded him. He ran the race of his life to go down narrowly to Punjabi last year and may just be beaten by speedier rivals once again. One such animal is Khyber Kim who has looked a reformed character this season. It was hard not to be taken by his win from Celestial Halo over course and distance in December and Nigel Twiston-Davies' eight-year-old has the class to prevail, if he consents to put it all in, but it would be no surprise to see Binocular claim the prize after such a stop-start preparation.
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