The International Hurdle at Cheltenham is one of the key trial races for the Champion Hurdle and this weekend's race is looking like a cracker. The International is run over the same course and distance as the big race in March and we have three star horses to keep a close eye on. The likely favourite for the race is Zarkandar who looks set to take his chance for Paul Nicholls having won the Elite Hurdle in some style at Wincanton last month. Zarkandar is a former Triumph Hurdle winner at Cheltenham and he was a staying on fifth in the Champion hurdle last season which has to be considered a decent run. That run lead most to believe he wanted further than two miles and connections are still unsure over his route this season with the race this weekend likely to provide plenty of clues. A good run here over the Champion Hurdle course and distance against two very good horses should see him have one more crack at the race in March.
Zarkandar is likely to start favourite with one run under his belt already this season but much of the attention will be on Rock On Ruby. The Harry Fry trained horse won the Champion Hurdle last season and after missing the Fighting Fifth Hurdle last month due to the ground he will be making his seasonal debut in the International Hurdle. This is his chance to prove that his win last season was no fluke and it will be fascinating to see how he fares back at the scene of his greatest triumph. The final horse of the big three taking their chance this weekend is Grandouet who will be returning to try and win the International Hurdle at Cheltenham for the second year on the bounce. Following his triumph last season Grandouet was well fancied for the Champion Hurdle only to miss the race with an injury and this will be his first start for 12 months. It is highly likely that Grandouet will need the run on Saturday but he looked a very classy type last season and a good run here will raise hopes of him making up into a potential Champion Hurdle winner.