Tony McCoy was underwhelmed, if hardly in despair, about Binocular despite the reigning Champion Hurdler finishing off his Cheltenham preparations on a winning note at Sandown yesterday.
It was worth remembering McCoy had been fairly critical of his mount after he had struggled home in last season's Totesport Contenders Hurdle before he rose to the occasion when it really mattered just over five weeks later.
Binocular had looked in need of a run when beaten by Peddlers Cross on his return at Newbury, but claimed the Christmas Hurdle with ease and was not expected to be troubled by three rivals rated leagues below him.
After getting a little warm in the preliminaries, the 1/10 favourite jumped scrappily at one or two on the back straight.
McCoy was just starting to have to get serious when the front-running Ruthenoise, also trained by Nicky Henderson, stumbled through the last and allowed Binocular to cruise clear.
"It wasn't impressive, but for whatever reason it was a similar performance to last year," said McCoy. "I don't think he jumped as well as he can today, but with just three other horses you are being careful in case one falls."
Binocular was eased slightly by a couple of bookmakers but remains the unanimous Champion Hurdle favourite and is 100/30 with sponsors Stan James.
There are encouraging signs at the stable of Alan King, who appeared tempted to offer Medermit a shot at the Arkle after he repelled the threat of Captain Chris in the totepool Challengers Novices' Chase.
It was only on the gruelling uphill run-in that Medermit (5/2 favourite) began to lose his momentum as Captain Chris closed to half a length.
And King was not certain he had discovered another Triumph Hurdle winner after Kumbeshwar (11/2) chased down the huge lead of Professeur Emery in the closing stages of the Bet On toteplacepot.com Juvenile Hurdle.
"He's got to get his jumping better, he was a bit sloppy, and on what we've seen today I wouldn't think he was a Triumph horse," said King.
At Wetherby, Ian Williams celebrated his second successive Towton Novices' Chase as Wayward Prince landed the Grade Two feature.
After scoring 12 months ago with Weird Al, Williams earmarked the three-mile-one-furlong event for his seven-year-old. He was left unchanged at 12/1 by totesport for the RSA Chase but did his prospects no harm at all with a two-length victory over Cape Tribulation.
Meanwhile, Leopardstown's high-profile Hennessy Gold Cup meeting today is under threat due to heavy rain with an inspection called for 7.30am.
Yesterday's fixture at Naas was called off due to a waterlogging and while Leopardstown was raceable by mid-afternoon, manager Tom Burke is worried by the prospect of further rain.
Sunday Indo Sport