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."
20 October 2014No rushing back for Long Run
Dynaste leads Old Roan contenders
Grands Crus retired
Chelmsford City handed 58 fixtures
Exciting Berlais heads to Chepstow
Force handed Hong Kong mission
Park favourite for Trophy hunt
Al Kazeem team eye Hong Kong trip
Alderwood to take two-mile test
Dynaste leads Old Roan contenders
Commemorative bound for Breeders'
Hennessy aim for Clouds
Slade eyeing victorious swansong
Fiesolana on Breeders' trail
High-class possibilities for Trophy
Chelmsford City handed 57 fixtures
French option for Maarek
Billy back for chasing bow
Judge to bid for Breeders' glory
Pipe mulls Moon target
High hopes for Holywell
Judge in Breeders' frame
Hill stars for Stoute and Moore
Gabriel lifts Garnet for Deegan
New One back with a win
Light career hangs in balance
Stars shines on hurdling debut
King big guns ready to start
Tullius camp consider options
Doyle unlikely to appeal Ascot ban
Mullins prepares formidable team
19 October 2014New One breezes to victory
Lavelle has Becher plan for Lodge
Riches heading on road north
Down Royal plan for Tiger
New makes Kempton return
Panther hunting Canadian prize
Sun takes a shine to Cork
Hobbs upholds Showcase record
Another gold strike for Bronze
Gallant Noble a true Champion
Head turns on Charm in QEII
Madame is Ascot leading lady
Forgotten rules for Weld
Byron is poetry in motion
18 October 2014Forgotten rules for Weld
War misses Breeders' date
Rakti reaps Caulfield reward
Chatez bids for Balmoral crown
Lavelle duo top Cheltenham card
Integral takes on the boys
Noble on Champion mission
Belardo a Dewhurst sparkler
Together stands firm for Ballydoyle
Ivawood felled by plucky Thought
Crowley doubles up on Berkshire
Tendon injury sidelines Tent
17 October 2014Minstrel calls the tune
Sceaux set for chase campaign
Sari seeking Ascot gold
Charm out to show winning Spirit
Estimate aiming to go the Distance
French veteran back for more
O'Meara - G has the Force
Fallon considers American switch
Cossack maintains Elliott's record
Vautour goes chasing
Lucida heads Godolphin trio
McCoy sits out weekend action
No Middle ground for classy Ivawood
Big guns hold sway for QEII
Cirrus stands firm for Champion
Hanagan: Estidhkaar no soft touch