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14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Key Kingwell test for ZarkandarHeadlines
Zarkandar

Zarkandar attempts to boost his strong claims for the Stan James Champion Hurdle when he lines up at Wincanton.

The second favourite for next month's Festival showpiece has this term won the Elite Hurdle on this track and the International Hurdle at Cheltenham. He has his final race before the big one when facing five rivals in the Grade Two Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle.

Trainer Paul Nicholls said: "This is his final preparation race before the Champion Hurdle. We'd prefer better ground, but he's won on similar going so we are not worried. He goes well fresh. We've trained him differently this year and it seems to suit him."

Nicholls also runs Celestial Halo, who has finished second in this race for the last two years, while Alan King has won this race twice in recent times and goes for a third victory with Raya Star and Balder Succes.

"This has been a lucky race for us, with both Katchit and Mille Chief successful," the Barbury Castle handler told www.alankingracing.co.uk.

"Raya Star has been a model of consistency and has never stopped improving. He gave us two great days when winning The Ladbroke and the Scottish Champion Hurdle and also landed a hot Listed handicap at Ascot in November.

"His second to Darlan at Kempton makes excellent reading, and he is fresh and well after a short break, while the small field will certainly suit Balder Succes, who travelled well in the Welsh Champion but ultimately did not get home.

"He will appreciate coming back in trip and won't mind the ground, and, while he is wrong at the weights, he gets claustrophobic, so these conditions races seem to suit him better than the big handicaps."

Nicky Henderson saddled Binocular to lift this prize 12 months ago and has chosen this race to bring back Khyber Kim. The 2010 Champion Hurdle runner-up, when under the care of Nigel Twiston-Davies, returns to action after being sidelined for 681 days.

The Seven Barrows handler said: "He's in remarkably good form. He used to be a very good worker when I had him and Nigel said the same. He's capable of showing really good form, but he has been off for centuries and I'm sure he'll need the run."

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