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.”

Nigel Twiston-Davies

Nigel Twiston-Davies  Having learned his trade under Fred Winter, Kim Bailey and David Nicholson, Nigel Twiston-Davies saddled his first winner as a trainer, Last Of The Foxes, at Hereford in 1982. Since those early days, Welsh-born Twiston-Davies has sent out hundreds more winners from his stables at Grange Hill Farm in Naunton, Gloucestshire and has spent most of his career as one of the top half a dozen or so National Hunt trainers in the country.

However, he is probably still best known as the trainer of Imperial Commander, who won a vintage renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which also featured Kauto Star and Denman, in 2010. In fact, the victory of Imperial Commander initiated a memorable treble, which also included Baby Run, ridden by the trainer’s son Sam, who was just 17 years old at the time, in the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase and Pigeon Island in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual.

All in all, Twiston-Davies has saddled 17 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, which earns him in joint-seventeenth place, alongside his mentor David Nicholson, in the list of most successful trainers of all time at the Festival. Aside from the Cheltenham Gold Cup, his notable victories include the Weatherbys Champion Bumper with Ballyandy in 2016, the Ryanair Chase with Imperial Commander in 2009, the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle three times, with Gaelstrom in 1993, Fundamentalist in 2004 and The New One. He’s also won the RSA Chase and the Pertemps Final twice apiece, with Young Hustler in 1993, Blaklion in 2016 and Rubhahunish in 2000 and Ballyfitz in 2008, respectively.

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.