This weekend sees the return of Zarkandar to British racing for the first time this season and the Paul Nicholls trained seven-year-old looks ready to make another major impression on the sport. Still perhaps known for his famous Triumph Hurdle win of 2011, this half brother to the legendary Zarkava remains one of the most consistent hurdlers in the sport and with three miles now his forte, there could just be more to come.
Zarkandar will start as favourite for the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot this weekend as connections continue their route back to the World Hurdle in March. He finished a respectable 4th in Stayers Hurdle last season on his first start over the extended trip but with doubts surrounding each of the three that finished in front of him that day, maybe there is another big day in Zarkandar in 2015.
It appears as though his stamina is improving as he gets older as he showed on his first start this season over in France as he trounced a good field to win the Grade 1 Grand Prix D'Automne Hurdle over 3m. That success came on very soft ground ahead of the solid Gemix with many believing it was a career best from the horse.
That performance over in France finally put to bed any stamina doubts surrounding Zarkandar and better ground is sure to bring out even more improvement in him as we head into the spring. He will of course need that improvement to get anywhere near a top form More Of That, who recently lost his unbeaten record with a below par run at Newbury, who is the defending champion in the division but it is easy to make a case for him finishing in the top three.
There are one or two younger horses who could yet oppose Zarkandar in March with Beat That and Briar Hill among those but neither have been seen at the time of writing and look a little short in the market as doubts remain.
Zarkandar on the other hand is a rock solid horse when it comes to form; he is a former Festival winner, while he also has the necessary class to ensure that he is a cracking addition to our Cheltenham Festival Ante Post Portfolio for the World Hurdle. He was held up at the back of the World Hurdle field last season to get the trip on his first start over three miles but with stamina now assured, 14/1 to go at least one better in 2015 looks like a great price.
Zarkandar - each-way @ 14/1* in the Ante Post World Hurdle Betting