Champion glory for Binocular
The Press Association - 2010-03-17
A brief mini-holiday to Ireland revitalised Binocular as Nicky Henderson's Festival third of 2009 returned to Cheltenham and streaked away with the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle, writes the Press Association.
Connections had announced he would not run in the Champion after several lacklustre displays, but a 10-day spell at owner JP McManus's Martinstown Stud, with intervention from vet John Halley and back specialist Mary Bromiley amongst others, worked the oracle.
Back in the picture, the 9-1 shot travelled sweetly through the race for Tony McCoy and led at the penultimate obstacle before pinging the last and pulling three and a half clear of former stablemate Khyber Kim.
Henderson's Zaynar was a six-length third, with Celestial Halo fourth and Starluck fifth.
McManus said: "I had a few pounds on him for this race before he ran at Sandown. I could have torn up my ticket after that, but luckily I didn't! I rate all my horses highly, but champions are hard to come by and he is a champion."
McCoy added: "All season I have not had the same feel from Binocular as I did last year and he wasn't jumping as well as he can. Everyone has looked at him and someone has done something which has made a difference.
"I schooled him last Wednesday and I went as fast as anyone has gone schooling before. I frightened myself and Mr Henderson. He jumped like a champion hurdler that morning and that made up my mind that he would run.
"He flicked over his hurdles today, so from an early stage he felt alive and I knew that whatever tried to get past him up the hill would have to fly. Cheltenham means everything to JP and it is the highlight of his year, so I am delighted he has won a championship race."
Henderson, landing his fifth Champion Hurdle, said: "I can only apologise for what I said about him not running and I can assure you it was not a ploy. We have fine-tuned him muscularly ,but it is difficult to name the exact thing that has made the difference."
Go Native was sent off the favourite as he chased WBX's £1m bonus, but he trailed home 10th and trainer Noel Meade said: "Paul (Carberry) said he dived at the second hurdle and he never felt right after that. Unfortunately these things happen."
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