McCoy's verdict boosts Binocular festival hopes
JP McMANUS received the perfect 59th birthday present with news that Binocular had schooled in impressive style yesterday, but trainer Nicky Henderson says that a decision about running in Tuesday's Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle will not be taken until the horse has worked tomorrow.
Jockey AP McCoy, who made a special trip to Henderson's yard to partner Binocular, said that the French import jumped 13 flights of hurdles in an intensive round of schooling.
"His jumping was as good as it has been all season," reported the 14-times champion. "He schooled very well and I was very happy with him, but we won't know whether he runs until his work on Friday."
So encouraging was news of the school that Ladbrokes have reintroduced the former favourite into their market at 8/1. If he is confirmed a runner, that price looks sure to contract.
McCoy had been disappointed in Binocular despite a winning effort at Sandown last time and the gelding was sent for veterinary tests. Fears that he had suffered a muscular problem were allayed and Henderson has reported him to be in fine shape.
There were 17 confirmed at yesterday's five-day stage for the Champion Hurdle, with two notable absentees. The final door closed for the exciting novice Dunguib to step up in class as trainer Philip Fenton stuck to his guns for the gelding to work his way through the ranks and left him out of the race.
Willie Mullins also ruled Quevega out of the race, which leaves the way open for her to attempt back-to-back victories in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle later the same day.
McManus, meanwhile, is hoping that his Qaspal gets into the Paddy Power Imperial Cup on Saturday. The progressive six-year-old is an intended runner, but connections face a waiting game to see if the gelding makes the final line-up.
Despite a 14lb penalty for his last victory, the Philip Hobbs-trained gelding needs six horses above him to come out to make the cut at today's final declaration stage. McManus has four entries in the £70,000 feature and his racing manager Frank Berry said: "It's all up in the air and we don't know which way we're going as a few of them are in at Cheltenham as well.
"Qaspal at the bottom of ours might not get in, but he is a definite runner if he gets in."
Leading fancy Salut Flo will miss the valuable handicap in favour of a trip to Cheltenham. David Pipe's French recruit was impressive on his British debut at Doncaster last weekend, making a mockery of an initial chase mark of 118 to beat Soulard by 12 lengths.
The McManus-owned Garde Champetre is on course to bid to complete a hat-trick of victories in the cross-country chase at Cheltenham.
The 11-year-old defied top weight of 11st 12lb last year and will attempt to do the same again on Tuesday.
Of the 25 possibles for the three-mile-seven-furlong test, five are from the Garde Champetre team of McManus and trainer Enda Bolger. The others are last year's runner-up L'Ami, Freneys Well, Drombeag and Heads Onthe Ground.
Sizing Australia, runner-up to Garde Champetre over this unique circuit in December, will represent Henry de Bromhead. Other interesting entries include 2007 Grand National hero Silver Birch from the Gordon Elliott yard, Monkerhostin, Cornish Sett, Thomas O'Leary's Preists Leap and Lacdoudal. (© Daily Telegraph, London)