Zarkandar showed plenty of guts to give Paul Nicholls another big-race victory in the stanjames.com International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
In receipt of 4lb from Champion Hurdle hero Rock On Ruby and Grandouet, winner of this race last year, he was sent off the 6-5 favourite to give the champion trainer a fifth winner on the afternoon.
Ruby Walsh was the first of the big three to exert pressure, but in testing ground and up the famous hill it was Zarkandar who toughed it out, beating Grandouet, who ran a fine race on his first start for 12 months, by two lengths, with Rock On Ruby fading late in the day on his seasonal bow.
Nicholls said: "I don't think he was himself last year, especially after he fell at Aintree, and even two weeks before Wincanton (Elite Hurdle) I thought he'd have no chance of running well, but he just suddenly picked up and was enjoying his schooling again.
"He's the right age and I think he's still improving. He'll probably go for the Kingwell in February, but I haven't made up my mind.
"There's never a shortage of jockeys if Ruby wants to pick Hurricane Fly, but this horse will have reminded him of his ability and we're really looking forward to March."
Nicky Henderson said of Grandouet: "I want one more run into him before the Champion. I might look at the Kingwell, but it depends what else looks like running there."
Harry Fry said of Rock On Ruby: "I think a combination of the ground and not having had a run has cost him, but Noel (Fehily) felt he was as good as ever and we might go straight to the Festival."
28 July 2014Beacon leads Hannon trio
Toormore on Goodwood mission
Options open for Approval
Star duo head Sussex field
Pallasator states case for Ebor
Custom a cut above
Harty doubles up in Galway feature
Munich Mission impossible
Jinx on a high in France
Cox plays it cool with Kodi
Girl given Lowther target
Burke looking to Curragh
Hanagan hails Taghrooda
Toormore drops in class for Lennox
27 July 2014Beacon shines over Molecomb rivals
Miss skips Galway for Goodwood
Tag crowned queen of Ascot
Muthmir delivers in Dash
Metal proves International star
Sheikh pounces for late score
Kingman poised for showdown
Kleo hits top gear for Cumani
Dettori strikes on Osaila
Bear grills Winkfield rivals
Yorkshire Oaks target for Volume
26 July 2014Taghrooda queen of Ascot
Elleval bids for Pomfret prize
Noble primed for German mission
O'Meara duo going International
Tag team happy to have a go
Telescope reaches for stars
Euro chasing dollar signs
Estimate given Goodwood entry
Pique Sous out for season
Secret chasing York success
Reason aiming to deliver in Dash
Remote on comeback trail
25 July 2014Hughes misses Newmarket rides
Bill seeks International acclaim
Tag team have a crack at George
Telescope has record in sights
Nicholls pays tribute to Business
Flintshire misses George date
Hills reveals positive test horse
Kennedy floored on Leopardstown bow
Candy sweet on hot-shot Alonsoa
Big guns in Irish Champion frame
Farraaj sidesteps York return
Classy entries for Champagne
Stars align for Sussex showdown
Kiyoshi dips in grade for Valiant
Gosden waits on Eagle call
Horsted heads International runners