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.
26 February 2017Thistlecrack set for further scan on Tuesday
Injured Barry Geraghty to miss Cheltenham Festival after Kempton fall
Forge Meadow firmly in Cheltenham picture after Naas success
Henry de Bromhead readying three-pronged challenge to Altior
Camping Ground leads National Spirit field a merry dance at Fontwell
Nicky Henderson eager to have Barry Geraghty back for Cheltenham
Tombstone to be supplemented for Champion Hurdle
George Baker awake in hospital after horror fall in Switzerland
George Baker in intensive care in Switzerland after St Moritz fall
Dermot McLoughlin to keep Vics Canvas fresh for Grand National
Alan King outlines Cheltenham Festival plans
George Baker airlifted to hospital after St Moritz fall
Peter Fahey has Coral Cup preference for Peregrine Run
Blow for Neil King as Lil Rockerfeller ruled out of National Spirit Hurdle
Sidelined Barry Geraghty faces fitness race but 'hopeful' of making Cheltenham
Trip proves no barrier to success for Winter Derby hero Convey
Mysteree solved for Michael Scudamore in Eider Chase
Another Bobbyjo success for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh
River Wylde gives Nicky Henderson something to cheer at Kempton
Frodon finds plenty to land Pendil for Paul Nicholls
This means so much - ice-cool James Best bags big Kempton prize on Pilgrims Bay
Alan King seeking Yanworth improvement for Champion Hurdle
Charli Parcs crashes out as Master Blueyes takes Adonis honours at Kempton
25 February 2017Famous success for one-time Derby contender Chopin in Qatar
Dinaria Des Obeaux gets Fairyhouse verdict in stewards' room
Barry Geraghty taken for checks after Kempton fall
Phil Tufnell leads British challenge for BetBright Cup at Cheltenham
Rich Ricci considering Cheltenham options with Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag
Nicky Henderson delighted as Brain Power leads Kempton workout
Neil King has Lil Rockerfeller 'back on good terms' for National Spirit defence
Injury woe for Danny Sheehy after Dundalk fall
Wayne Hutchinson sidelined after Exeter fall
Michael Scudamore celebrates birthday with Devon National success
Limato pencilled in for Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan
Guineas hero Galileo Gold thriving with Lockinge return planned
Toast Of New York being assessed with return to racing in mind
Thierry Jarnet, rider of Treve, announces retirement from the saddle
Alan King vies to reign supreme with Elgin in Dovecote at Kempton
Portrait King and Milborough back for more in Eider at Newcastle
Exciting Charli Parcs takes Adonis test with Cheltenham target up for debate
Tom George strives for more Kempton glory with Double Shuffle
24 February 2017Sovereign Debt hangs on to foil Cougar Mountain for big win in Qatar
Betfred boss Fred Done to pay out prize-money in Chelmsford void race
Arab Spring bidding to keep Frankie Dettori in winter wonderland
Ross O'Sullivan has Baie Des Iles in good order for Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse
Landofhopeandglory flies the flag at Fairyhouse for Joseph O'Brien
Martin Dwyer keen to ride at Aintree in memory of late father
Willie Mullins to consider Champion Hurdle assault with Limini
Winter Derby at Lingfield a 'good starting point' for classy Mutakayyef
Beautiful Romance books Dubai World Cup night ticket
Race declared void on dramatic day at stormy Chelmsford
Colin Tizzard 'favouring' Neptune challenge at Cheltenham for Finian's Oscar
Tin Soldier battles to Michael Purcell success at Thurles
Tried and tested routine the order of the day for Cue Card and Native River
Colin Tizzard - Thistlecrack injury hit me for six
Storm Doris claims Huntingdon card
McPherson anticipating bold Bartlett bid from Ami Desbois
Annacotty leads 13 contenders for BetBright Chase glory
23 February 2017Plenty to look forward to at the Festival for crack amateur Jamie Codd
Sara Bradstock pleased with Coneygree recovery progress
Imperial Cup option for Peace And Co
Soldier In Action on the Cheltenham Festival wagon after Doncaster romp
Nicky Henderson has Pendil preference for Different Gravey
Willie Mullins takes stock after 'huge performance' from Limini at Punchestown
Nicky Henderson wary of Un De Sceaux threat in Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham
David Simcock goes Meydan Trophy hunting with Sheikhzayedroad
All roads lead to Arkle Trophy for Altior and Nicky Henderson
Nicky Henderson says Noel Fehily still in Buveur D'Air frame for Champion Hurdle
Micky Hammond targets Naas prize with Just Cameron
Tom George issues Roc D'Apsis Kempton warning