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Page last updated at 15:27 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Tony McCoy rides Binocular to Champion Hurdle victory

Cheltenham Festival
Venue: Prestbury Park Date: 16-19 March
Coverage: Live text commentary and daily reports on BBC Sport website & mobiles. Live daily coverage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra (1300-1400) and 5 live (1400-1600) and television coverage on Channel 4 (1230-1615)


Tony McCoy celebrates victory on Binocular
Tony McCoy celebrates his win on Binocular in the Champion Hurdle

Binocular put his recent injury problems behind him to win the Champion Hurdle on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Tony McCoy's mount, who went off at 9-1, had finished third in 2009 but was pulled out of the race last month with a muscle problem.

But he was passed fit last week and looked impressive once he took the lead turning for home.

Khyber Kim (7-1) battled well for second with Zaynar (15-2) third.

Binocular had struggled this season with defeats in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and after failing to impress at Sandown in February, was ruled out of the Cheltenham reckoning.

But the six-year-old, owned by Irish millionaire JP McManus who also owned three-time winner Istabraq, put in a couple of impressive pieces of work last week at trainer Nicky Henderson's Seven Barrows yard in Berkshire.

He was always travelling sweetly under McCoy, taking command between the last two hurdles to win by three-and-a-half lengths for the Antrim man's 22nd Festival success.

"When I schooled him last week it was the first time he has hurdled like we know Binocular can - like a champion hurdler," he said afterwards.

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"He didn't have a good build-up this year. He has not been hurdling well all year, he's just done something funny every time.

"I'm so happy for JP. This is better than any feeling I have had from the horse. It's hard to win here and this is everything."

Henderson was also delighted that his hard work had paid dividends on the big stage.

"It hasn't been an easy passage this year. When he was beaten last year, we said he'd come back and AP [McCoy] said he would win it," he said.

"We were actually nine-tenths taking him out and we said he wouldn't run. But we did a lot of work. We've got a fantastic team and we ironed out a few things."

Earlier, Dunguib failed to live up to his reputation as he could only finish third behind Menorah in the opening race of the day, the Spinal Research Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Philip Fenton's seven-year-old returned to defend his Festival record after demolishing his rivals in the Bumper 12 months ago and went off as the 4-5 favourite.

Although jockey Brian O'Connell kept his mount out of trouble and they challenged at the second-last, Menorah and Get Me Out Of Here looked the more dangerous

Philip Hobbs' Menorah held a slender advantage climbing to the line under Richard Johnson and found the post coming just in time as McCoy urged a late challenge from Get Me Out Of Here.

For Hobbs, it was a first Festival win in three years and his 12th overall.

"It is an enormous relief to win the first race on the first day and we will hopefully have a chance with some of the others," said Hobbs.

"He was still green jumping the second-last and ran around slightly. I was pleased that Richard took it up when he did or else we would have been in trouble.

"We could have run in the County Hurdle but we decided to come here and take on Dunguib."



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see also
Cheltenham Festival - Day one as it happened
16 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Cheltenham Festival photos
16 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Solwhit passed fit for Cheltenham
13 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Binocular fit for Champion Hurdle
12 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Imperial Commander lands Gold Cup
19 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Kauto races to King George record
26 Dec 09 |  Horse Racing
Punjabi storms to Hurdle victory
10 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
BBC racing coverage
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