Paul Nicholls insists it should be of no concern to Zarkandar's supporters that jockey Ruby Walsh has once again chosen to side with Hurricane Fly in the Stan James Champion Hurdle.
Walsh, the stable jockey to both Nicholls and Willie Mullins, rode Zarkandar to win the International at Cheltenham earlier in the season, but deserted him in the last Champion in favour of the defending champion Hurricane Fly.
In the end, he managed to finish third, with Zarkandar fifth, but both Nicholls and Mullins believe their respective charges are different horses this time around. Daryl Jacob is to take over on the former Triumph winner, having helped him through his final trial in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.
"I don't look at it as Ruby deserting us, he was always going to ride Hurricane Fly. If, God forbid, anything happened to Hurricane Fly then Ruby is the stable jockey and he'd step in on Zarkandar. But they both get on well with the horse, they are both great lads and it won't be an advantage to have either Daryl or Ruby on board."
Nicholls paraded Zarkandar at his stables on Wednesday and is pleased to have enjoyed a clear and unbeaten run with the gelding. He is one of a trio jostling for position as second favourite behind Hurricane Fly.
"He had a tiny fracture in a hind leg last year, we had to rush to get him back for the Betfair Hurdle, which he won, but he was nowhere near himself in the Champion Hurdle last year," Nicholls said.
"He's in a great place now, and I'd like to see the ground on the slow side for him as the Champion Hurdle course is a lot sharper than the other course. He loves Cheltenham and I'd say there's not a lot between Hurricane Fly, my lad, Rock On Ruby and, possibly, Grandouet."
Wonderful Charm heads to Kempton on Saturday for a racecourse gallop ahead of the Coral Cup, but a decision has not been made on the Cheltenham participation of last week's Reynoldstown winner Rocky Creek.
Nicholls said: "If it's testing, Rocky Creek could go for the RSA Chase, but he's a horse I want to look after and I might ask Andy Stewart and David Johnson if I can just mind him."
Unioniste may take his place in the RSA, while Sanctuaire will have another attempt at conquering the apparently unbeatable Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
7 December 2013Hinterland reigns in Henry VIII
V for victory for Henderson
Mullins strikes with Gitane
Twinlight out to show the Way
Wyck primed for big Aintree run
Dandino and Rock miss Vase run
Bec puzzler for Lavelle
Moore's Vino is vintage stuff
Mullins sets sights on Navan
Captain taking charge for Henderson
George plots Aintree gold rush
King out to reign in Henry VIII
Newcastle in talks over AW track
Sir champing at bit for Durkan date
Baby on board for Becher
6 December 2013Carberry sidelined for weekend
Dunaden 'back to his best'
Glance sights fixed on Cup glory
Strawbridge coy over Cloud future
Sire out to profit from Sacre blow
Queen awarded ROA honour
Three-month ban for Arnold
Contrite Butler must 'rebuild life'
Nicholls watching ground for Roque
Topper tests Future waters
Murphy hit by nine-day ban
Big field for Becher
Sacre forced out of Sandown return
Cadeaux team enjoying the ride
Lantern burning bright once more
5 December 2013Rasen survives wind scare
Festival switch for Mares' race
Sacre out of Tingle Creek
No luck for Jwala in Sprint draw
Aigles well ahead of fourth Cup bid
Rasen to check on wind
Butler considers ban response
Court team eyeing Huntingdon return
Oscar on course for Cheltenham
Cantlow in Cheltenham frame
Juddmonte "not for sale"
Noseda content with Grand journey
Cloud future hinges on Mile outcome
Road charts route towards Becher
Knight backs Somersby to shine
4 December 2013Butler handed five-year ban
Rain key to Azorian Navan bid
Greatrex ponders Baby gameplan
Pipe tinkers with Crus schedule
Fahy eyes Morning glory in Topaz
Verse goes for a song at Tatts
King brings up personal milestone
King issues bleak Invictus update
Tatenen chasing December gold
Rocky revved up for Lexus
Sir and Star set for Durkan date
Sandown heat attracts novice stars
Bolster aiming for confidence boost
Hill faces Becher test