Binocular 'in fine form' ahead of Cheltenham
Nicky Henderson reports Binocular to be in fine shape following his victory at Sandown on Saturday.
The JP McManus-owned gelding was not overly impressive in winning the Contenders Hurdle, but he had struggled home in the same race 12 months ago before going on to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The Seven Barrows trainer will give Binocular an easy time over the next week before aiming to have him at his peak for his bid to retain his crown in the Stan James-sponsored Festival showpiece on March 15.
"He's absolutely fine, he was sound yesterday. He'll have a quiet week or even a fortnight," he said. "We'll just potter about with him and he'll come back for the principal target."
Bookmakers still have Binocular as favourite at around 3-1 for the Champion Hurdle.
Timmy Murphy has high hopes for Ghizao in the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham next month.
The seven-year-old, trained by Paul Nicholls, has won two of his three starts over fences and Captain Chris, who has finished second to him on both occasions, was runner-up to Medermit at Sandown on Saturday.
"I was delighted with the way Captain Chris ran again in Sandown so that gives our form a boost," Murphy told said. "The only thing is I hope the ground doesn't come up too quick, but I don't think it gets too quick anymore.
"Touch wood he's a good jumper. Paul (Nicholls) has given him a break to freshen him up. He had a tough race at Newbury with the penalty.
"He's had three runs over fences. He was always a neat jumper of hurdles and he's proved that over fences. He's got scope, he's agile, he's had enough experience and he'll go there fresh."
Ghizao is the 9-2 second favourite for Arkle honours on March 15.
Somersby is to be aimed at the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham next month after his fine effort against Master Minded at Ascot.
Trainer Henrietta Knight has decided to keep the seven-year-old at two miles rather than step him up in trip for the Ryanair Chase.
Somersby was runner-up in the Arkle Trophy at the Festival last March, and gave dual Champion Chase winner Master Minded a fright when making up an enormous amount of ground to get within a short head in the Victor Chandler Chase at the Berkshire venue last month.
"He's very well. He's definitely going for the Queen Mother," said Knight.
"He's done nothing wrong at two miles, so he'll stay at that trip for the moment. He's never run well beyond two miles yet so there's no point changing the formula."
Somersby is around 7-1 for the two-mile championship on March 16.
Brian Ellison is praying for a little rain to aid Marsh Warbler's prospects in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham next month.
The North Yorkshire trainer reports his Festival hopeful to be in top form after his win in last month's Grade One Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow.
"He's never stopped improving," Ellison said.
"He's going for the Triumph and we want a bit of cut in the ground for him. He worked on Saturday and is in great form.
"I don't think he wants fast ground. I know he's won on good to firm first time out as a two-year-old, but ideally I'd just want a bit of juice in the ground for him."
Marsh Warbler is prominent in the betting at around 10-1 for the Triumph on March 18.