Zarkandar can stroll to Long Walk Hurdle success
Trainer Paul Nicholls has his team in fine form and Zarkandar holds outstanding claims of providing him with another big race success in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot today (2.25).
The seven-year-old is a very useful Grade 1 performer, as he should when gamely beating The New One in the 2013 running of the Aintree Hurdle.
Zarkandar also posted a number of solid efforts last season, including when fourth of 10 to More Of That in the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and looked as good as ever when landing a Grade 1 contest on return to action at Auteuil last month.
The son of Azamour race prominently throughout and after a great jump at the last ran on strongly to beat the very useful Gemix by five lengths.
That form sets a high standard in this line-up, and Zarkandar is officially rated 3lb and upwards clear of his rivals.
With underfoot conditions fine, and Sam Twiston-Davies in the , he looks the one they all have to beat.
Reve De Sivola is bidding to follow in the footsteps on Big Buck’s and win the race for a third year in succession, but has been very disappointing since scoring in last year’s renewal.
The Nick Williams-trained nine-year-old has failed to trouble the judge in four subsequent starts and finished 18 lengths behind Zarkandar when a well-beaten seventh last time out at Auteuil.
There is no reason why Reve De Sivola should reverse the form, and the son of Assessor has plenty of questions to answer at present.
A bigger danger to Zarkandar in my book is the tough and consistent Medinas.
The Alan King trained seven-year-old landed the Coral Cup and Welsh Champion Hurdle in 2012/13 and booked his place in this line-up with an impressive victory over Cole Harden and the previously unbeaten More Of That in last month’s Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
Medinas only had to be driven clear to score by seven lengths, and even allowing for the fact that More Of That was clearly not right there was plenty to like about the performance.
This race demands more, but Medinas is only rated 3lb below Zarkandar and is a genuine sort who can always be relied upon to give it his best shot.