Zarkandar fuelled his claims for the Champion Hurdle and surprised trainer Paul Nicholls when outpointing stablemate Prospect Wells in the totepool.com Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
Fifth in last season's Champion and subsequently a faller at Aintree, the diminutive five-year-old (100-30) showed with a determined display under Daryl Jacob that, in a tight situation, class will out.
It was a perfect start to the campaign for Jacob, who because Ruby Walsh is expected to ride Hurricane Fly throughout the season, is set to be aboard Zarkandar for all his races.
Despite giving his rival 17lb, Zarkandar cruised up to join Prospect Wells still on the bridle two flights from home, and buckled down on the run-in to resist the latter's final thrust under Walsh by a neck. It was seven lengths back to Balder Succes.
Nicholls was all praise for the winner, whom William Hill cut to 10-1 from 12s for the Champion Hurdle.
He said: "He's done well, real well, and I never had him looking as good as this for the whole of last season.
"For him he looks big and well, and in the last fortnight he's just suddenly picked up. Ruby thought the 17lb would swing it and I told the owners that win, lose or draw he would come on for the run.
"Zarkandar will now go for the Bula (International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December) )and we're right back where we want to be with him. The Bula is the race we've been training him for. Then we'll look to bring him back here for the Kingwell in the new year.
"Prospect Wells is a rattling good handicapper and will win a nice race. Today there hardly deserved to be a loser. Prospect Wells lost nothing in defeat. I always hate beating a stablemate, but he will win a nice race. Both have run well and I am chuffed for both of them."
Nicholls completed a double when the Walsh-ridden Foggy's Wall (9-2) grittily held God's Own in the bumper. The trainer said: "He won't run for six weeks, then he'll go hurdling. I'm in no rush with him at all."
19 September 2014Simcock aims high with star duo
Bolster back on Gold trail
Glorious bids to protect Legacy
Fahey chasing Newmarket Millions
Time called on Dude career
Makin off to a flyer at Ayr
Festival stalwart Celestial retired
Guest banking on Memory at Ayr
Dettori sweet on World rule
Baraweez on track for Ascot
Maguire raring to go
Watchable handed low Gold draw
Palmer mulls Aktabantay options
Bronze seeking Newmarket gold
18 September 2014Breathing operation for Cue Card
Early conclusion to Levy agreement
Johnson Houghton hearing date set
Walker looks to future with Moon
Red-hot Kirby in Sandown treble
Listed honours for Hadaatha
Busy bags another National
Botti lines up Newmarket raid
Vintage performance from Weld filly
Cup dreams in mind for Forever
Weld prepares Newmarket challenge
McGrath and Walton charged by BHA
Encke camp ponder next move
17 September 2014Street Cry dies, aged 16
Luck be a Lady in Cheveley Park
Appleby won't Abandon hope
Glenalmond disrupted by setback
Judgement day looms for Benoist
Toocool in Mill Reef frame
Time out for Panama
Adelaide backed to shine in Plate
Ascot to offer Irish incentive
Ryan advises caution on Gatsby run
Goodwood work forces race changes
Cosgrave hits out at ERA decision
Twilight takes Thirsk triumph
Ayr hero Ramius set to retire
Sea The Moon forced to retire
Lantern shines in morning spin
Simcock maps out plan for star pair
Max powered up for Abbaye
16 September 2014O'Meara waits on Watchable call
Arc an option for classy Dolniya
Smurfer seeking National glory
Cosgrave put on ERA forfeit list
Belardo remains on road to Dewhurst
Cullen leads tributes to Brady
QEII beckons for Tonto
Murtagh cool on Royal Cup raid
Murtagh salutes Champions Weekend
Weighty issue for Ed's Red
Weighty issue for Ed's Red
Malabar earmarked for Boussac
Ivanhowe Arc ride in demand
Groove on for Cesarewitch bid
All-weather finals day on Channel 4
Watchable leads Gold Cup contenders
Limato leads Reef contenders
Toast confirmed for Classic chance
Classic hopes for Connection
Estimate to skip Melbourne trip
Rizeena set to race on