One of the stars of the 2011 Cheltenham Festival, Zarkandar, will finally make his seasonal debut this weekend ahead of a return to Prestbury Park. The Paul Nicholls horse won the JCB Triumph Hurdle last season and connections are aiming him towards the Champion hurdle at this years Festival. The horse is a half brother to the great flat horse Zarkava and many believe he has realistic Champion Hurdle claims this season. Zarkandar will run in the new Betfair Hurdle on Saturday at Newbury and a good win there will see his Cheltenham price contract further. At the moment the Champion Hurdle betting is dominated by Hurricane Fly and most will be looking for a new challenger like Zarkandar to emerge from the pack before the Festival. It is worth noting that Paul Nicholls has already said that while he expects a good run from Zarkandar at Newbury he does expect the horse to improve for the run.
The Triumph Hurdle from last year has worked out well in terms of form with the likes of Grandouet and Unaccompanied finishing behind Zarkandar in the race last season. Both of those horse have been in great form this season and also have decent Champion Hurdle claims which makes Zarkandar a highly exciting prospect. While the horse remains a star of the future it must be remembered that Zarkandar is still only five which means he has plenty of improving to do over the next couple of years. The stats say that only one five year old has won the Champion Hurdle since 1985 which is a minus for him but at this stage he really could be anything. Ante-post Cheltenham punters will be eager to see an impressive win from Zarkandar at Newbury which would only serve to heighten the hype around a potential clash with Hurricane Fly next month.