Punchestowns stays on track for RSA bid
Nicky Henderson polished his championship contenders as Punchestowns and Binocular readied themselves for battle at the Cheltenham Festival with victory at Sandown.
Punchestowns could well be seen again before his bid to justify favouritism in the RSA Chase despite his success in the Grade One totepool Challengers Novices' Chase.
Last year's Ladbrokes World Hurdle runner-up made a bad blunder at the seventh fence under Barry Geraghty, but the 4/11 favourite still had little issue in reeling in Tchico Polos to score by eight lengths.
Victor Chandler cut Punchestowns to 5/2 from 7/2 at the head of the RSA market, with most layers leaving him untouched at prices just over 3/1.
Elsewhere, Kalahari King laid down a marker for the Queen Mother Champion Chase with a brilliant comeback victory in the Blue Square Handicap Chase at Doncaster. Last season's Arkle Trophy runner-up was making his first racecourse appearance of the season having been held up by a small setback and appeared to have plenty on his plate under the burden of top weight.
Sent off at 10/1 in the hands of Graham Lee, Ferdy Murphy's nine-year-old was settled at the rear of the field in the early stages and still had more horses in front than behind as they rounded the turn for home.
However, Lee always appeared confident he had the horse to take him there and after challenging for the lead between the final two fences, a fantastic leap at the last sealed victory as he ran on to score by three and a quarter lengths from Oiseau De Nuit.
Kalahari King was cut to 5/1 from 10/1 for the Champion Chase with Victor Chandler and 6/1 from 8s with Sky Bet and Paddy Power.