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."
1 August 2014Muthmir seeking Stewards' verdict
Thunder misses Goodwood run
Venus shoots for Nassau victory
Wind on Leger trail
Goodwood return possible for Darwin
Ivory Hopeful of Tropics run
Wetherby awarded Flat fixture
Moviesta out to defend title
Edison lights up Galway
Age no burden for Cavalryman
Battling Miss a Goodwood hit
Dalkova does the business
Ivawood storms to Richmond glory
Valley peaks in Fairmont
Encke makes Goodwood comeback
Cumani has Velox primed to strike
Intrinsic scrapes into Cup field
31 July 2014Cavalryman is Cup king
Easy for Alelchi
Gal stars at Deauville
Chepstow card in Lingfield switch
Ivory hoping for tropical showers
Gosden launches dual Nassau raid
Evans shows patience with Alexander
Road takes Plate riches
Australia preparing to return
King reigns in Sussex duel
Peculiar claims Galway honours
Reel has Vintage rivals in a spin
Sky flashes home in Gordon
Tough Teak outstays Goodwood rivals
Rich pickings for Ivawood
Estimate ready for Goodwood test
30 July 2014Morphine investigation nearing end
Peculiar claims Galway honours
King rules in Sussex
Chepstow called off
Edison out to light up Galway
Kingman all set for Sussex
Warwick to ditch Flat races
Showcase fixture avoids Ascot clash
Sous earmarked for Royal return
Injury woe for Hanagan
Bird ruled out of Nassau
Elleval team turn to Leopardstown
Zalty still in Galway frame
Tag recovering from Ascot exertions
Muthmir team eye Goodwood gold
Van driven out for Goodwood success
Love too much for Toormore
Cotai claims Molecomb glory
Leger hopefuls seek Gordon glory
Sennockian stars at Goodwood
Hannon aims to uphold family honour
He who would be King
29 July 2014Repeat Topaz victory for Vastonea
Eagle set for short break
Vulcanite spearheads Longsdon raid
Hughes launches double Plate bid
Estimate in Goodwood Cup field
Quick picks off Galway rivals
Lion could roar in Champion Stakes
Time out for Carpenter
Beckett considers Gesture gameplan
Pitt ponders Sir Stewards' run
Bird in full flight for Nassau
Beacon leads Hannon trio
Toormore on Goodwood mission
Star duo head Sussex field