Binocular heads Fighting field

TONY McCOY is hoping Binocular can kickstart the new campaign in the best possible way in the Stanjames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.

The seven-year-old, trained by Nicky Henderson, was among seven horses confirmed for the Gosforth Park showpiece at the five-day stage.

The 16-times champion jockey felt the 2010 Champion Hurdle hero, owned by his boss JP McManus, was never at his best last term even though he did win two races.

“He had a disappointing year and is not the easiest horse in the world to keep right. He’s always had little problems and last season never went according to plan at any stage,” McCoy told At The Races.

“He won the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, but missed Cheltenham and was disappointing at Aintree and Punchestown

“We’re trying to get him back on a winning trail again if we can and starting again, all being well, at Newcastle.

“It will be no easy task for him. It’s always a competitive race and you’ve got fit horses like Celestial Halo taking part.

“It won’t be easy for him but hopefully we can get him back to his best.

“He looks particularly well and looks healthy. You never know the answer to these things until you try them. We’ll know more after Newcastle on Saturday.”

Binocular is likely to be a warm favourite for a race he has yet to win. He started 4-5 in 2009 but could only finish fifth to Go Native.

His possible rivals include Brampour, who has been a revelation this autumn with wins at Ascot and in the Greatwood at Cheltenham.

His trainer Paul Nicholls has also left in Celestial Halo, winner of the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton this month.

Donald McCain’s Overturn has stood his ground after capitalising on the final flight fall of Oscar Whisky to win the Coral Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday.

Karen McLintock’s Bygones Of Brid and the Brian Ellison-trained Stormy Weather were the other acceptors from the original entries while Kosta Brava has been supplemented by County Durham trainer Chris Grant. The seven-year-old, formerly trained by Howard Johnson, will be a big outsider for the Grade One race.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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