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Last Updated: February 19, 2009 12:13pm
Binocular - easy winner.
JP McManus is no stranger to Champion Hurdle success thanks to three-time winner Istabraq and the legendary Irish owner's latest aspirant Binocular set out on the Festival path with a bloodless success at Haydock.
Last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle runner-up has yet to finish out of the first two in five starts, and found himself the new 3-1 favourite with Ladbrokes for Cheltenham after an exhibition round.
Sky Bet now go 7-2 for the hurdling crown with William Hill offering 4s following the four-year-old's hard-held victory in the Betfair Hurdle.
Nicky Henderson's charge faced an easy task for his seasonal debut against four inferior rivals and barely broke sweat as Tony McCoy brought the 1-9 favourite home unchallenged.
McCoy said: "He is a very talented horse with a lot of speed and pace.
"He jumped a couple down the back very quickly and then started to get keen when he got more competitive.
"He was going so well that I thought he might grab at a hurdle but he was very quick and tight.
"He will have the freshness out of him now and will relax better next time.
"He is fast and fluent, which he will have to be if he is going to make up into a Champion Hurdle horse."
McManus said: "He has a long way to go to match up to Istabraq but you have to love what he did there.
"He proved he was well and in good form, and the bookmakers have priced him fairly for the Champion Hurdle."
McManus' racing manager Frank Berry added: "He did it nicely and it was always good to get the first run out of the way.
"We'll see how he comes out of it and let Nicky make a plan."