Nicholls pleased as Zarkandar finds his form
Paul Nicholls believes Zarkandar is right back on track after the five-year-old got the better of stablemate Prospect Wells in the totepool.com Elite Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday.
After a disappointing season last time out, in which he finished fifth in the Champion's Hurdle at Cheltenham and fell at Aintree, the diminutive 100/30 shot showed that class is permanent with a determined display under Daryl Jacob.
Despite giving 2/1 favourite Prospect Wells a 17lb advantage, Zarkandar passed his rival two flights from home and buckled down on the run-in to resist the latter's final thrust.
Ditcheat trainer Nicholls was full of praise for the winner, who was cut to 10/1 from 12s for the 2013 Champion Hurdle by William Hill.
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"He's done well, really well," said Nicholls. "I never had him looking as good as this for the whole of last season – in the last fortnight he's just suddenly picked up.
"Zarkandar will now go for the Bula [the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December], that's the race we've been training him for, then we'll look to bring him back to Wincanton for the Kingwell in the new year.
"Prospect Wells is a rattling good handicapper and run up to his best, it's a shame there had to be a loser. A trip further will suit him."
Nicholls completed a double when the Ruby Walsh-ridden Foggy's Wall (9/2) grittily held off God's Own in the final race, the result being upheld after a steward's inquiry.
"He won't run for six weeks, then he'll go hurdling," said Nicholls of the winner. "I'm in no rush with him at all."