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Wet weather keeps Melodic Champion hopes afloat

Trainer Jeremy Scott has stated that Melodic Rendezvous must have soft ground in order to line up in the Champion Hurdle next month. With no sign of an end to the miserable weather, that is looking increasing likely as Scott puts the finishing touches to the horse’s festival build-up.

Saturday’s Wincanton card hinges on a 7.30am inspection with the course having already made it an all-hurdle race meeting. The Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle is the objective for Melodic Rendezvous and a likely clash with World Hurdle-bound Zarkandar in the heavy ground.

Last season Scott was looking forward to running Melodic Rendezvous in one of the novice events at the festival before injury intervened. A setback in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle has meant an interrupted preparation again this year for the eight-year-old son of Where Or When.

The chestnut won well on his seasonal bow in the Elite Hurdle over course and distance, beating Far West by a length and three-quarters. He bounced back from his Newcastle injury to land the Stan James Champion Hurdle trial at Haydock last month, beating yet another Nicholls inmate in Ptit Zig.

His main rival is Zarkandar, beaten into second place in three Champion Hurdle trials this season and being prepared for the Stayers’ hurdle. The 2011 Triumph Hurdle winner was fourth in last year’s Champion before beating The New One at Aintree and remains a serious force.

Nicholls already has a strong hand in the World Hurdle with Big Buck’s and Celestial Halo but is keen to see how Zarkandar fares at that distance. The son of Azamour is not big enough to go chasing so stepping up in trip seems the logical step.

If he performs well at the festival, Nicholls plans to run him at Aintree and Punchestown with a possible trip to France on the agenda. Also hoping to line up at Wincanton is Alan King’s Grumeti who was reported to be wrong after finishing fifth in the Christmas Hurdle.

The former Triumph Hurdle third still holds an entry in the Champion Hurdle. Melodic Rendezvous’ stable companion Notarfbad is joined by Golden Chieftain and Red Riverman in the six-runner field with the race due off at 3.35.