Nicky Henderson’s assistant has warned defending champion Binocular is not a certain starter in the Williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle.
JP McManus’ gelding has won the Boxing Day Grade One twice in-a-row, beating Rock On Ruby last season before finishing fourth to the same rival in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Outlining possible runners for Seven Barrows in the race, representative Charlie Morlock said: “Darlan has an entry in The Ladbroke at Ascot. Grandouet will be entered for Kempton and I’m sure Darlan will be too.
“I don’t think Binocular definitely goes there – he came back into training a little later and might not get to Kempton on Boxing Day.”
Donald McCain has not lost any faith in Cinders And Ashes despite his defeat behind Countrywide Flame in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner never looked to be travelling that well in the conditions for Jason Maguire and was eventually well beaten by John Quinn’s Triumph Hurdle hero.
It was a rare reversal for the in-form McCain and he is now looking at the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton for his charge.
He told his betfair.com column: “Obviously amongst all the winners it was a shame Cinders And Ashes couldn’t make a winning reappearance in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle but I am far from despondent about it.
“Look, he’s been beaten but to my eye he was hating every minute of it on the ground and I think he probably did well to get as close as he did.
“There was absolutely no benefit in him standing in his box any longer – he was ready to run and it was the right race for him – so although he has been beaten, it’s not the end of the world.
“I said throughout last season that he would be a better horse on better ground and (Newcastle) was final confirmation to me that he doesn’t want it that deep.
“The plan is now to go for the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton – the ground there should be better and, even if it’s soft, it won’t be anything like heavy going at Newcastle!
“I haven’t lost any faith in him and there will be other days for him to show what he can do.”
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