03/15/2010 11:00PM

Binocular scores in Champion Hurdle


Binocular turned a near-miraculous return to form into victory in the $556,000 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday, powering to a 3 1/2-length score over Khyber Kim in what is widely regarded as the world's premier hurdle event. A half-length third in this race last year as the favorite, the 9-1 Binocular led under Tony McCoy after jumping the second-last hurdle and gave nothing else a chance the rest of the way.

It was six lengths further back to Binocular's Nicky Henderson-trained stablemate, Zaynar, in third, with a second stablemate, Punjabi (last year's winner), ninth. After a shaky start Go Native, the Noel Meade-trained 11-4 favorite by virtue of victories in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and the Christmas Hurdle, weakened to come home 10th of 12, 24 lengths behind the winner.

Owned by John P. McManus, Binocular had been just fifth in the Fighting Fifth and third in the Christmas Hurdle before struggling to win a three-runner listed race at Sandown on Feb. 6. It was such a disappointing effort that he was removed from Champion Hurdle consideration at the time, only to be put back in the race after a couple of nice works in recent weeks. Back to his best, Binocular traveled the 2 1/16 miles on good to soft ground in 3:53.90.