Champion jockey Tony McCoy has paid handsome tribute to Binocular after the former Champion Hurdle winner was retired following the discovery of an underlying heart problem.
McCoy labelled the Nicky Henderson-trained, JP McManus-owned nine-year-old the quickest jumper of a hurdle he had ever ridden.
McCoy, who also won the Champion Hurdle on Make A Stand in 1997 and on Brave Inca in 2006, rode Binocular in 20 of his 22 races over timber. He said: “He was the fastest horse to get from one side of a hurdle to the other that I’ve ever ridden and I think only Make A Stand could even compare to him. He deserves the happy retirement that he’s now going to enjoy.”
Binocular was always held in the highest regard by connections, arriving at Seven Barrows in 2007 before his winning debut as a four-year-old at Ascot in January 2008. Two months later he ran in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle rather than the Triumph Hurdle, but Captain Cee Bee, also owned by McManus, had not read the script and beat him by two lengths.
Kept to his own age group at Aintree a month later he beat the Triumph Hurdle winner Celestial Halo by seven lengths.
The following year Binocular won twice before finishing third to Punjabi in the Champion Hurdle, beaten half a length as the 6-4 favourite. His next season caused a bit of a stir as he was very disappointing in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and was beaten in the Christmas Hurdle before scrambling home at 1-7 at Sandown, and he seemed almost certain to miss Cheltenham. However, he came to life just before the Festival and won the Champion Hurdle with a devastating display by three and a half lengths from Khyber Kim.
Despite never reaching those heights again he did win two subsequent Christmas Hurdles at Kempton but, in two runs last season he showed little of his old spark at Leopardstown and in the Champion Hurdle, in which he was beaten 28 lengths by Hurricane Fly.
McManus’s racing manager Frank Berry said: “He has been retired – he had a little heart complaint.”
Binocular won 11 of his 22 races over obstacles and amassed nearly £800,000 in prize money.
McCoy is at Hexham this afternoon to ride Regal Encore, and it will be a major surprise if he does not return to the winner’s enclosure after the Hexham Bookmakers “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.
Anthony Honeyball’s was among the leading hopes for last season’s Champion Bumper and ran a fantastic race to be runner-up behind the exciting Briar Hill. He was turned over at odds-on on his hurdling debut at Aintree in October but he was far from disgraced and the winner, Garde La Victoire, could be something special judged on his subsequent triumph at Warwick.
Regal Encore himself stepped up when jumping far better en-route to victory at Plumpton last month and will surely have too many gears for his rivals today.