Binocular

Binocular  Owned by John P. McManus and trained by Nicky Henderson, Binocular is best remembered for winning the Champion Hurdle, under A.P. McCoy, in 2010. However, when was retired from racing in 2013, when a series of tests revealed an unspecified heart defect, he had won 11 of his 22 starts over hurdles, including the Anniversary 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton (twice), as well as the Champion Hurdle.

 

Binocular made his first visit to the Cheltenham Festival in 2008, just two starts after joining Nicky Henderson from Elie Lellouche in France. Unfortunately, he tasted defeat for the first time in Britain, too, when beaten 2 lengths by Captain Cee Bee (also owned by J.P. McManus) in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Three impressive victories later, though, he lined up at Cheltenham again, this time as 6/4 favourite for the 2009 Champion Hurdle. He made a pretty good fist of winning it, too, going down in a driving finish, beaten a head and a neck, behind stable companion Punjabi.

 

At the start of the 2009/10 season, Binocular was beaten favourite in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, on both occasions behind Go Native. He justified odds of 1/7 when beating two vastly inferior rivals in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown in February, but later that month Nicky Henderson withdrew him from the Champion Hurdle.

 

However, after bone scans revealed no damage and Binocular did an outstanding piece of work at home, Henderson promptly changed his mind.Multiple champion jockey A.P. McCoy said of the workout, “I went as fast as I’ve ever gone schooling on a horse – I actually frightened myself – and for some reason he jumped like a proper Champion Hurdler should.”

 

Sent off at 9/1 for the Champion Hurdle, Binocular made smooth progress to lead at the second last flight and was well in command thereafter, eventually winning by 3½ lengths from Khyber Kim. Henderson later said of him, “He was the one horse who reminded me of [triple Champion Hurdle winner] See You Then. Watching him school some mornings, he was as good as you’ll ever see.”

Denman

Denman

When he retired from racing, as an 11-year-old, Denman had won 14 of his 24 starts, including the Hennessy Gold Cup (twice), the Royal & SunAlliance Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Owned by Paul Barber and the ebullient professional gambler Harry Findlay and trained by Paul Nicholls, Denman was unbeaten in his first four starts over hurdles, including an easy 21-length win in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day in 2006. He returned to Cheltenham for the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle the following March, but tasted defeat for the first time, going down by 2½ lengths to Nicanor.

 

Sent over fences in 2006/07, “The Tank”, as he became known, won all five starts, culminating with a convincing 10-length beating of Snowy Morning in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. After a break of 262 days, he reappeared at Newbury in December where, carrying 11st 12lb, he impressively won the Hennessy Gold Cup by 11 lengths from Dream Alliance.

 

He subsequently won the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and the Aon Chase at Newbury the following February so, by the time the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup rolled around, he started at just 9/4 to dethrone the reigning champion, his stable companion Kauto Star. The forecast duel between the two Nicholls’ “big guns” never really materialised, though, because Denman went clear soon after the fourth last fence and, thereafter, Kauto Star could make no impression and eventually finished second, beaten 7 lengths.

 

In the September following his Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph, Denman was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and, although he returned to training following treatment, it’s fair to say he was never, quite, the same horse again. He did manage to win the Hennessy Gold Cup for a second time, again under 11st 12lb, and finish second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2010 and 2011, so Lord knows what he might have achieved had he stayed healthy for the whole of his career. Denman has enjoyed a happy retirement and currently looks after the young horses on the farm belonging to his owner Paul Barber.

Tiger Roll

Tiger Roll  Racing Post Jumps Horse of the Year for 2017/18, Tiger Roll, stands 15.2 hands high and has been described – endearingly, one would hope – as a “little rat of a thing” by his owner Michael O’Leary. Nevertheless, the diminutive 8-year-old silenced his doubters by holding on to win the greatest steeplechase of them all, the Grand National, by a head under Davy Russell in April, 2018.

His owner had voiced his concern over his ability to handle the National fences, saying, “Tiger Roll either takes to it [Aintree] or he doesn’t. With him you’ll know after three fences if it’s a going day or not. If he can survive the first circuit, and gaps come in those big fences, then we’ll see. But you never know with him.” His trainer, Gordon Elliott, was also pessimistic about his chances, saying, “The ground was soft-to-heavy, so I thought the ground might be too soft for him.”

Even before his Aintree victory, though, Tiger Roll had become part of Cheltenham Festival folklore by winning in two different disciplines, over three different distances and under three different jockeys, in the space of five seasons.

In 2014, he won the JCB Triumph Hurdle, over 2 miles 1 furlong, under Davy Russell, in 2017, he won the National Hunt Chase, over 4 miles, under Lisa O’Neill and, in 2018, a month before his Grand National triumph, he won the Glenfarclas Chase, over 3 miles 6 furlongs – on a unique, twisting, turning course of banks, rails and ditches – under Keith Donoghue.