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Page last updated at 20:31 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009
Cheltenham, 10-13 March, 2009



Cornelius Lysaght
By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC racing correspondent

You don't need a pair of binoculars to spot the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle credentials of hot favourite Binocular.

McCoy rode Binocular to victory in the Novices' Hurdle at Aintree last year
McCoy rode Binocular to victory in the Novices' Hurdle at Aintree last year
A simple glance at the form book for the race (1515 GMT) is enough to indicate that the horse, trained by Nicky Henderson for owner JP McManus, and the mount of Tony McCoy, has so much going for him.

All perceived main rivals have either suffered defeat at his hands, like Celestial Halo, Katchit and Crackaway Jack at Ascot at Christmas, or have been beaten by the vanquished, like Osana.

Hole-pickers query Binocular's ability to cope with the famously examining contours of the Cheltenham course, where he himself was beaten in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at last year's Festival, but not Henderson.

"I don't subscribe to the theory that he did things wrong here last year," said the trainer of triple 1980s champion hurdler See You Then.

"I do think that you will see AP [McCoy] ride more conservatively, and just wait a little bit longer before coming through to the front.

"We have no doubts about stamina whatsoever. Last year it was the first time AP had ever ridden him and I think that we all learnt a lot about him that day."

606: DEBATE
Steveo77
Binocular is only five years old, and success here could spark off a sequence akin to that of See You Then or even the brilliant McManus-owned, three-time winner Istabraq, perhaps the greatest champion ever.

Other leading contenders: last year's first and second Katchit and Osana; two other 2008 Festival winners Celestial Halo (Triumph Hurdle) and Crackaway Jack (Fred Winter Novices Hurdle); the 2007 champion Sublimity from Ireland; and two other previous winners Brave Inca (2006) and Hardy Eustace (2004/5) are also expected in the line-up.

Also on day one, look out for:

Irish-trained horses have won 10 of the last 17 runnings of the opening williamhill.com Supreme Novices Hurdle (1330), and trainer Willie Mullins' runners Cousin Vinny and Kempes should be respected.

Best Mate's trainer Henrietta Knight saddles Calgary Bay (with McCoy on board) as one of the favourites for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy (1405).

The form of Festival regular L'Ami could be a cut above the rest in the Glenfarclas Cross Country race (1600).

And don't be caught out by the early start - the first race each day this year is at 1330 GMT.

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see also
Cornelius Lysaght column
07 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Binocular targets Hurdle success
09 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Master Minded leads Chase field
09 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Cornelius Lysaght column
02 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Attrition ruled out of Cheltenham
09 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Kasbah hopes for Festival bliss
09 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Binocular surges to Ascot victory
20 Dec 08 |  Horse Racing
Kauto beaten on comeback outing
03 Apr 08 |  Horse Racing


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