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Binocular leads Henderson bid to make Cheltenham history

Last year's impressive winner Binocular could be accompanied by four stable companions when attempting to make their trainer Nicky Henderson the most successful in Champion Hurdle history at the Cheltenham Festival on March 15.

The in-form Lambourn handler, who has captured the prize on five occasions and has Saturday's fluent Kempton scorer Binocular as undisputed ante-post favourite, could also saddle Soldatino and Zaynar, the two most recent Triumph Hurdle victors there.

A total of 31 entries have been made for the £370,000 Stan James-sponsored promotion, including seven from this country headed by regular rivals Hurricane Fly and Solwhit as well as the Hennessy family's former hero Sublimity.

Paddy Power quote Binocular at 5/2 to retain his crown, with Hurricane Fly for Willie Mullins and the ex-Irish Menorah, unbeaten around Cheltenham in three outings, joint second favourites at 5/1. Dunguib, an enforced absentee due to an infection from Sunday's BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle, can be backed along with Binocular's progressive stablemate Oscar Whisky at 12/1.

Oscar Whisky obliged in style under Barry Geraghty at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, but Philip Fenton will have to be patient with Dunguib, which won't be making his belated seasonal debut until next month's Red Mills Hurdle at Gowran.

Meanwhile, it is "highly unlikely" that King George VI Chase hero Long Run will run again before Cheltenham, with Henderson now aiming to have him back at the peak of his powers for the Gold Cup.

"He's come out of it (King George) really well. He's been out in the paddock for a bit and it went really good," said Henderson. "It's highly, highly unlikely that he'll run before Cheltenham. In fact, it's almost certainly improbable."

Irish Independent