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By Martin Kelly, Press Association Sport. Last Updated: 16/03/10 5:55pm
Binocular clears the last en route to victory.
Binocular completed a Lazarus-like comeback to emerge a clear-cut winner of the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle, the feature event on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Trainer Nicky Henderson last month ruled out a crack at the hurdling prize after failing to find any tangible reason for a string of indifferent performances this term.
However, a satisfactory schooling session last week put the the six-year-old right back in the mix and jockey Tony McCoy barely had a moment of worry in the big event.
Sent off at 9-1, McCoy was confident throughout on last year's third and he quickened right away after the final flight to beat Khyber Kim (7-1) with plenty to spare.
Zaynar, another of Henderson's three runners, was third at 15-2.
Henderson said: "It hasn't been an easy passage this year. When he was beaten last year, we said he'd come back and AP (McCoy) said he would win it.
"We were actually nine-tenths taking him out and we said he wouldn't run.
"We did a lot of work. We've got a fantastic team and we ironed out a few things.
"His jumping was the difference and Zaynar ran a great race. Binocular deserved to win it one day."
McCoy added: "When I schooled him last week it was the first time he has hurdled like we know Binocular can - like a champion hurdler.
"He didn't have a good build-up this year. He has not been hurdling (well) all year, he's just done something funny every time.
"I'm so happy for JP (McManus, owner). This is better than any feeling I have had from the horse.
"It's hard to win here and this is everything."
Khyber Kim's jockey Paddy Brennan was thrilled with the performance of the runner-up.
He said: "It went perfectly and I couldn't be more happy with my horse."
His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said: "I was happy all the way. The race went perfectly for him and at the bottom of the hill I thought he looked home and hosed.
"I must admit I am disappointed that he got beat and will now go off and drown myself!
"He's almost certain to go to Aintree providing he's OK for the two-and-a-half-mile race and I'm sure that won't be a problem."
Henderson added of Zaynar: "By the way he ran, it looks as if he wants to go further and with that in mind, we'd look towards the World Hurdle next season."
The major disappointment of the race was Noel Meade's favourite Go Native, who travelled well for a long way but was beaten turning for home.
The trainer said: "Paul (Carberry) said he dived at the second hurdle, which he did, and he never felt right after that.
"It couldn't have been his running, but unfortunately these things happen.
"If he comes back OK, then he'll go to Punchestown and hopefully he can come back here next year."
Another Irish raider Solwhit, who had scoped dirty at the start of last week, was also well held, as was Henderson's 2009 winner Punjabi.