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Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Sunday, 13 March 2011

Cheltenham: Binocular withdrawn from Champion Hurdle

Coverage: BBC Radio 5 live Tue 1200-1600 GMT, Wed/ Thur 1400-1600, Fri 1300-1600, Champion Hurdle 1520, Channel 4 TV/Racing UK
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Tony McCoy winning at Kempton last Saturday on Binocular
Tony McCoy winning at Kempton last Saturday on Binocular

Binocular will not defend his Champion Hurdle crown at the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday as trainer Nicky Henderson has been forced to withdraw the horse.

The JP McManus-owned seven-year-old has tested positive for a legal substance after being treated for an allergy.

On British Horseracing Authority advice, Henderson was forced to withdraw the current champion.

Henderson said: "We're all shattered but I am particularly upset for JP who's been incredibly understanding."

The current champion had been heading the ante-post market at around the 7-2 mark just hours before Sunday's declaration time.

Binocular, whose jockey was set to be BBC Sports Personality of the Year Tony McCoy, was trying to be the first back-to-back winner since Hardy Eustace in 2005.

Henderson's statement continued: "He had an allergy two weeks ago that did not respond to initial medication and on veterinary advice and well within normal parameters he required a further treatment the following day.

"As we were getting close to the most important race of the year and also because since that administration to Binocular another horse had tested positive for the same substance, I thought it prudent to take a precautionary test which surprisingly, let alone devastatingly, has also shown to be positive.

"We therefore reluctantly had to take the BHA's advice that the only reasonable course in everybody's interest is not to confirm the entry and he has consequently been withdrawn from the Champion Hurdle.

"I would very much like to sympathise with all Binocular's supporters and punters who may have backed him ante-post."

The BHA believed the decision to withdraw was the only one which could have been taken "in the interest of both the horse and the integrity of the sport" and stressed that the test results did not breach any rules.

A statement read: "Because the horse has not run and because the substance is a legitimate medication, we want to be clear that this screening finding is not a breach of the rules. We will continue to assist where we can in establishing when Binocular tests negative and can therefore race again."

More than 200,000 spectators are expected to attend the Gloucestershire track for the four-day jump racing fixture, which was first run at Cheltenham as a two-day meeting 100 years ago.

Binocular powered to an impressive three-and-a-half-length success over Khyber Kim last year.

He also won the rescheduled Christmas Hurdle at Kempton in January and the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown last month.

Last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle victor Menorah, unbeaten in three outings at Cheltenham, will fly the flag for the Philip Hobbs yard and now heads a field of 11, with Alan King's Salden Licht being the only other defector.

Donald McCain, son of Red Rum's trainer Ginger, is the driving force behind the unbeaten Peddlers Cross, last year's Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle victor.

He had Binocular back in third when winning the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newbury in November.

Hurricane Fly heads a three-strong Irish contingent, along with his Willie Mullins stablemate Thousand Stars, winner of the 2010 County Hurdle at Cheltenham.

A six-time Grade One winner, Hurricane Fly has missed the last two Cheltenham Festivals through injury, but has recorded comfortable victories over Solwhit on his last two outings.

Dunguib finished third after being sent off favourite for the meeting's opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle last year.

Favourite for the first race this time is 2010 Champion Bumper winner Cue Card, trained by Colin Tizzard and the mount of his son, Joe.

Champion Hurdle: Runners and riders

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see also
Cheltenham: Champion Hurdle
13 Mar 11 |  Horse Racing
Maguire free for Champion Hurdle
03 Mar 11 |  Horse Racing
Binocular lands Champion Hurdle
16 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
BBC racing coverage
09 Apr 11 |  Horse Racing

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