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McCoy banking on a Binocular improvement

Tony McCoy believes Binocular has to improve to be a serious contender in next month's Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle.

The JP McManus-owned gelding was a close third to Punjabi and Celestial Halo in the Cheltenham showpiece last March but has yet to run anywhere near that level of form this term.

Nicky Henderson's charge had to be nowhere near his best to dispose of two inferior rivals at Sandown last Saturday to record his first success for more than a year.

"It was nice that he won and obviously good for his confidence," McCoy said.

"I don't think that he is at the level of form he showed this time last year.

"Obviously the Champion Hurdle is still five weeks away and he is in the right place.

"On Saturday's performance he definitely has to improve. There's still time so hopefully Nicky can get that improvement out of him.

"I don't think he's as sharp as he was last year. Whether with more match practice he might get better, you wouldn't know but we'll have to see and hope that he improves."

Binocular is as big as 8/1 to go two places better in the Champion Hurdle on March 16.

McCoy is convinced, meanwhile, that Captain Cee Bee has the ability to win the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy.

The nine-year-old, trained by Eddie Harty, consolidated his position as ante-post favourite for the two-mile novice chase championship with victory at Naas last Saturday.

McCoy was unable to take on the ride on the gelding, owned by his boss JP McManus, but will be back in the saddle at the Festival.

"There's no doubt about his ability as a racehorse, I think he is a very good horse," McCoy said.

"It's a little bit like some of the horses in Ireland when they come to Cheltenham, it's a little bit of a culture shock for them sometimes.

"There's no doubt he has the ability to win the Arkle and if he jumps well, he deserves to be the price he is.

"He made a little mistake again at the last but I'd rather ride him in the race more than anything else."

Captain Cee Bee, winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 2008, is generally available at 7/2 for the Arkle on March 16.

Gordon Elliott does not believe a large field will bother Carlito Brigante in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham next month.

The four-year-old has won his last three starts, including the John Smith's Scottish Triumph Hurdle at Musselburgh last Sunday.

He is now joint second-favourite for the Triumph itself but will be stepping up markedly in class for his next race.

"We were very happy with him, it was a great performance," Elliott said.

"He's a big, laid-back horse, he stays well, he jumps and he'll handle the hustle and bustle of the race. Davy Russell is first jockey to Gigginstown House Stud (owners) and I presume he will ride him.

"If he doesn't, then I'd hope Jason Maguire will."


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