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Binocular is set forKempton enroute to defendingcrown.

Byline: Chris Wright

BINOCULAR is set to line-up in the rearranged Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on January 15.

Last year's Champion Hurdle hero had been ready to run in he Grade One contest on Boxing Day, but plans were scuppered after the abandonment of Kempton's two-day Christmas Festival due to the cold snap.

His trainer Nicky Henderson had been looking at all options en route to a return to defend his crown at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

There was a race at Sandown on February 5, which Binocular landed last season before his Prestbury Park victory, but with just three weeks between Kempton and that fixture Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, says connections are taking it one step at a time.

Binocular is a best-priced 5-1 with Stan James and bet365 behind current 9-2 favourite Hurricane Fly for the Champion Hurdle.

And Berry said: "The plan is for him to run at Kempton and then we'll take it from there. He goes to Kempton and we'll have to see how he comes out of the race before we decide on what we're going to do."

Another hero from last year's Festival, Big Zeb, is likely to have one more run before bidding to retain his crown in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on March 16.

Colm Murphy's nine-year-old is a best-priced 4-1 second favourite with Sportingbet to retain his crown behind previous dual winner Master Minded.

Big Zeb landed the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown last January before winning at Cheltenham. And that contest on January 30 is the likely next step for him after his superb victory in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown on Wednesday.

Murphy said: "He's very good, he's been out in the paddock and there's not a bother with him.

"We thought he'd be a bit short of work because of the cold weather, so it's great that we know he'd be better for it. That was the key thing, so we're delighted.

"The Tied Cottage the obvious one, the same as last year and keep it nice and simple."

Meanwhile yesterday at Leopardstown Mikael D'Haguenet was a big disappointment as Realt Dubh won a dramatic Bord na Mona With Nature Novice Chase.

Willie Mullins' charge was sent off the 4-7 favourite to make amends for his last-fence fall at Fairyhouse, but was never a serious threat.

Saludos tried to make all under Robbie Power, but fell at the final fence to hand the race to Realt Dubh (10-1).

Under Paul Carberry Noel Meade's charge came home five lengths clear of Noble Prince, who stayed on well to collar Torphichen for second place.

Mikael D'Haguenet was fifth.

Meade said: "I was a bit disappointed with him the last day at Fairyhouse but he jumped brilliant today. "I always thought the world of him but did think he always wanted two and a half miles.

"He could come back for the Irish Arkle and we'll see what happens, but he could be a contender for the Cheltenham Arkle next March."

Mullins said of Mikael D'Haguenet: "I'm hoping he was maybe just flat after Fairyhouse.

"I wasn't happy from the fifth. He didn't jump great down the back and his rhythm went."

Realt Dubh is as low as 12-1 with some firms for the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival, although William Hill offer a best-priced 25-1 about his chances. Mikael D'Haguenet is out by to a best-priced 16-1 from 7-1 with William Hill for Cheltenham's RSA Chase.


Robbie Power falls from Saludos giving the lead to Realt Dubh and Paul Carberry at the last fence in the Bord na Mona With Nature Novice Chase at Leopardstown yesterday Picture: NIALL CARSON/
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 31, 2010
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