The StanJames.com Fighting Fifth has always been one of the season’s first major trials for the Champion Hurdle contenders to lock horns.
With this year’s line-up of only five, what it may lack in numbers it certainly makes up for in quality. Red hot trainer Nicky Henderson has aimed Binocular at this race for the past two years which has yielded in a fifth in 2009 behind Go Native and a third last year (race was at Newbury due to frost) behind Peddlers Cross.
On both occasions the now seven year old went off odds on favourite for the race, but he was disappointing both times when it came to the business end of the race, leaving the impression that he needed the run. However, this year the vibes from Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard have been more than positive in the build up, with Henderson saying “he (Binocular) looks more meaner and leaner this year.” If the “real” Binocular turns up here he will surely have too much speed for the dangers Celestial Halo and Overturn, with another bonus being the assistance of A P McCoy who misses the Hennessy in order to come to Newcastle. Paddy Power currently have the selection at 5/6 and with the Henderson team firing in winners all over the place, this could well be Binocular’s third time lucky!
As mentioned Overturn and Celestial Halo will be no pushovers but both give the impression they would appreciate a bit further, so they will both make sure this is an end to end gallop which should suit the selection perfectly.