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Friday 15 December 2017

Henderson nod for binocular

Nicky Henderson will be triple-handed in Tuesday's Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle after giving Binocular the go-ahead for Cheltenham.

Third in the race last year, there had been a doubt about the participation of JP McManus' six-year-old for some time following a couple of below-par efforts this season.

Indeed, he had initially been ruled out of the race by Henderson on February 17 after suffering a muscle problem.

But, following a pleasing schooling session on Wednesday, he came through a gallop yesterday morning with flying colours, and the recent Sandown scorer will be ridden by Tony McCoy to join Punjabi and Zaynar.

Defending champion Big Buck's could face up to 15 rivals in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham on Thursday following the confirmation stage.

Paul Nicholls' seven-year-old was a brilliant winner of the Grade One contest 12 months ago and has continued in a similar vein this season with two successes at Newbury.

Mouse Morris' 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero War Of Attrition looks set to return to the scene of his finest hour. Other Irish entries are Ebadiyan, Oscar Dan Dan, Powerstation and Royal And Regal.

Poquelin and Tranquil Sea are among 18 entries for Thursday's Ryanair Chase at the confirmation stage.

Edward O'Grady's Tranquil Sea came out on top when the pair clashed in the Paddy Power Gold Cup earlier in the season but Poquelin, trained by Paul Nicholls, then went on to win the Boylesports.com Gold Cup.

Willie Mullins still has a strong hand, having left in Barker, Deutschland, Golden Silver, Scotsirish and J'y Vole, while Made In Taipan, Newmill and Schindlers Hunt are the other possible Irish contenders.

Tom George has confirmed Paddy Brennan will be used whenever he is available after Sam Thomas suffered a cracked vertebra in a fall on the gallops at Nicholls' yard on Thursday morning.

Among George's team for next week's Cheltenham Festival is Tell Massini, ante-post favourite for Friday's Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.

Thomas is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines and George admits it is a big blow for the yard.

"Obviously Sam is very disappointed but when the news came through on Thursday morning it sounded a great deal worse than what it actually is," George said.

"We have made alternative plans and we're lucky that Paddy Brennan comes to us every week to school and ride work, and what he can ride he will ride for the foreseeable future."

Bob Buckler warned punters not to underestimate The Sawyer in the Byrne Group Plate at the Festival next week.

The 10-year-old has been in rich form this season, winning on successive Saturdays at Ascot and Cheltenham, before running a career-best to finish third to Monet's Garden in the Grade One Ascot Chase.

He may be off a career-high handicap mark but Buckler believes he will run another big race at the Festival.

"I couldn't believe it when I looked at the betting for the race and he wasn't near the top, I thought I'd forgotten to enter him," said Buckler.

"He hasn't been talked about anywhere but he likes Cheltenham, he's got speed, and we are not worried about good ground either.

Talented conditional jockey Emmet Mullins will miss out on next week's Cheltenham Festival after confirmation he fractured two ribs in a fall at Naas on Wednesday.

The highly rated youngster sustained the injury falling from Mystic Mayfly in a two-mile maiden hurdle.

It is a big blow for Mullins, whose rides were due to include Quiscover Fontaine in the Arkle Trophy.

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