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Monday 18 December 2017

Binocular bid in the balance

Connections of Binocular will make a decision on his Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle participation after a crucial workout next week.

The six-year-old was beaten just half a length when sent off favourite for last year's renewal of the hurdling showpiece but he has failed to achieve that level of form so far this season.

Despite a victory at Sandown last time, trainer Nicky Henderson ruled him out of the Champion Hurdle last month due to a muscle problem, but there may yet be a reverse of that decision if he pleases connections next week.

Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said: "He's had some treatment and we'll just see how he gets on next week before deciding where we're going with him.

"He'll have a school and do some work next week and then we'll see about Cheltenham. There is also Aintree and Punchestown to think about but it's in Nicky's hands and we'll call it next week."

Denis O'Regan is under no illusions as to the task facing Tidal Bay in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The 2008 Arkle winner reverted to timber in fine style in January when winning the Cleeve Hurdle at Prestbury Park.

Trained by Howard Johnson, who masterminded the career of great stayer Inglis Drever, Tidal Bay is one of only a handful of credible opponents to reigning champion Big Buck's.

"It's a tough race and it's a tough meeting but I'm looking forward to it," said O'Regan, who missed out through suspension in the Cleeve with Brian Hughes stepping in.

"It was a great decision by Howard and Graham (Wylie, owner), it was a super decision (to put him back over hurdles). It's great to get such a good horse back on track.

"I know I missed him but I was delighted he won and hopefully he's going to the Festival with a chance.

"The World Hurdle is going to be a very hard race to win but if you're not in, you can't win.

"He looks an amazing horse, Big Buck's. I was really impressed with him at Newbury. I thought it was a great performance on very heavy ground. He's a hard horse to beat and when he hits the hill he's fairly flying.

"It's great to be involved and I'm delighted to be going, hopefully he gets there in one piece," he said.

A pipe-opener at Wolverhampton next Saturday will go a long way to determining Mia's Boy's participation in the William Hill Lincoln.

Chris Dwyer's gelding has become a real success story and was fourth to Expresso Star in last season's Doncaster curtain-raiser, finishing third in the Royal Hunt Cup and ending up with a runner-up spot back on Town Moor in November.

Mia's Boy is only behind Expresso Star in the weights for the Lincoln and is a 20/1 shot with the sponsors.

"We're looking at running at Wolverhampton next Saturday over seven furlongs and see where we go from there," said Dwyer, who is based in Newmarket.

"The Lincoln is definitely under consideration but if he won at Wolverhampton, he would get a penalty and that would make it difficult.

"He is rated 106 now and might then have to go for Listed races instead."

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