Zarkandar successfully gave weight to his rivals to take the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle at Wincanton and boost his StanJames Champion Hurdle chances.
The firm’s Rory Jiwani told betrescue.com, “Paul Nicholls said the 2011 Triumph Hurdle winner would come on for the run and he bravely repelled stablemate Prospect Wells to take victory. He is a real contender for next year’s StanJames Champion Hurdle and we’ve cut him from 12/1 to 7/1 second favourite for the big race on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
“It wasn’t all plain sailing for Nicholls at Wincanton as Mr Mole was turned over at 2/7 in the opener and the JP McManus-owned gelding is out to 50/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Poungach was another beaten favourite from the Ditcheat yard in the Rising Stars Novice Chase with Houblon Des Obeaux keeping up the good early-season form of Venetia Williams’ stable. Houblon Des Obeaux is 16/1 from 25/1 for the RSA Chase at the Festival, and we’ve cut Poungach from 33/1 to 20/1 as we feel he is crying out for a step up in trip.
“Over at Sandown, Overturn put in an exuberant display of jumping on his chase debut to win comfortably and he is now 8/1 from 14/1 for the Arkle Chase. Jezki won the Grade 3 Fishery Lane Hurdle in good style and he’s 14/1 from 40/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with trainer Jessica Harrington targeting next month’s Royal Bond Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
“Here at Doncaster, Mike Appleby’s Art Scholar took the November Handicap much to the delight of us bookies with well-backed favourite First Mohican failing to land a blow. And Eton Rifles took the listed Wentworth Stakes for Stuart Williams with four-timer seeking Jack Dexter and last year’s winner Sirius Prospect missing out on the places.”
2013 StanJames Champion Hurdle antepost (EW 1/4 1,2,3): 6 Hurricane Fly 7 Zarkandar 9 Rock On Ruby 10 Cinders And Ashes, Grandouet 11 Darlan 20 Oscar Whisky 25 bar